Vardy V Rooney is an example of ”Verbatim Theatre”, where the play has been constructed from the precise words spoken by real people, in this case, the libel trial started by Rebekah Vardy against Coleen Rooney in 2020. All Verbatim plays that I have come across before have been very serious affairs: Vardy V Rooney is not!!!
The programme notes tell us that “the essence of a good story (is)…… healthy lashings of sex and deceit and money and glory…what tabloid culture is all about.” The adaptor/playwright, Liv Hennessey, has gleefully and subtly reduced the original seven days of the “trial” to two hours, showing us the most shocking events and almost but not quite making caricatures of the main protagonists. The result is that we quickly take sides with Coleen Rooney, especially as Act One almost entirely consists of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence and getting totally confused by barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC. He is superbly portrayed by Jonnie Broadbent, revelling in tricking Vardy time after time, continually catching the eye of the audience and telegraphing the moments when he is about to trip her up, without her realising. Vardy as played by Lucy May Barker is also wonderful in role: we just don’t believe a word she says, even when on the rare occasions she probably believes she is telling the truth! Why, we wonder, do these sort of people use social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter when they do not have the intelligence or common sense? Barker has studied the real-life Vardy very carefully and has perfected her mannerisms, just adding a slightly larger-than-life touch, as if that is needed! Physically she IS Vardy, and always watchable, even in Act Two when she has much less to do.
Coleen Rooney is given her opportunity in Act Two, but whereas Vardy was in the witness box for four days, Rooney was there for only three, and, to be honest(!), she is not as entertaining as Rebekah because she does not lie as much and is therefore not as funny! However, Laura dos Santos is first-rate, not only looking the role, especially with regard to her legs and deportment, but also in her facial mannerisms. It is a shame that Vardy’s brief, David Sherborne, played by Tom Turner, is nothing like such a colourful figure as Hugh Tomlinson and does not have the gift of sarcasm! His questioning is much more subtle, almost as if he cannot think of the right questions!
Nathan Mc Mullen makes the most of his occasional appearances as Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, as well as “pundit” (narrator) and Verna Vyas is underused as Mrs Justice Steyn but is perfect in role and has one show-stopping moment in the first half which is very funny! One can hear the whole audience gasp at this point!
The imaginative director, pulling in as many football references as possible, often hilariously so, is Lisa Spirling, also ensuring that the piece rarely flags, and Polly Sullivan has designed a soccer-inspired set that includes imitation grass!
Highly recommended as an amusing, fun piece of theatre, well staged and appealing to the full house which shouted, cheered, groaned and, above all, laughed in the right places. VARDY V ROONEY: THE WAGATHA CHRISTIE TRIAL is touring to ATG’s Theatre Royal Brighton (15-17 June) as well as one or two other venues after its London run.
Review by John Groves
From sting operations to sensational headlines, this “laugh out loud funny and surprisingly thoughtful” (Time Out) production will reveal what went on behind closed doors in the case that turned social media sleuthing into high drama. Audiences will witness first-hand, and in the words of Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, how the extraordinary week in court played out.
Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at Ambassadors Theatre
From Thursday 6th April, 2023 to Saturday 20th May, 2023.
Jonathan Broadbent – Hugh Tomlinson, QC
Laura Dos Santos – Coleen Rooney / Wagatha
Lucy May Barker – Rebekah Vardy
Nathan McMullen – Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Pundit
Tom Turner – David Sherborne
Sun 28 May 2023
Theatre Royal Brighton
Thu 15 Jun – Sat 17 Jun 2023
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Fri 26 May – Sat 27 May 2023
30 – 31 May 2023
The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
5-7 June 2023
The Lowry, Salford
9-11 June 2023