It was the celebrity trial of the modern era. No, not The People v O.J. Simpson. Not The People v Conrad Robert Murray either. I’m obviously talking about Vardy v Rooney, aka Wagatha Christie, which saw Rebekah Vardy sue fellow WAG Coleen Rooney for libel, after Rooney accused her of leaking posts from her private Instagram account!
Shortly after the court case, the trial was turned into both a television series and a stage play – in part because no cameras were allowed inside the courtroom. The television series and play have allowed people to know exactly what happened.
When the play was first announced, I had low expectations; I expected it to be a silly, goofy parody. In actuality, it’s a verbatim dramatisation – but then that had me worried it would be boring, by virtue of being serious.
But there was nothing serious nor boring about this trial. The play’s writers did not need to write their own dialogue, for the things actually said in court were so darn dramatic that you could not write it if you tried!
Whilst the play takes a verbatim approach to the trial, there are comic breakaways, in which two football commentators comically offer the audience additional information and context. In these moments, the trial is represented as a football match, featuring a very different Vardy and Rooney to most football games. I particularly enjoyed the instances in which the barristers scored goals with “mic drop” moments.
The courtroom has a football field for a floor though you cannot tell from the stalls; I have only realised this upon looking at the production images.
At the top of the show, the commentators break the fourth wall and welcome us to the trial; they tell us that they will be both commentating the match (I mean trial) and standing in for a few minor characters, with Nathan McMullen (Misfits) hilariously portraying both Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy.
McMullen (who The Mancunion recently interviewed) has wonderful chemistry with the sassy Halema Hussain (We Are Lady Parts) – and it’s incredible seeing a South Asian actor star in a play that does not require her character be South Asian (whilst representation for Black and East Asian actors is improving, South Asians appear to have been left behind).
Laura Dos Santos (The Bill, Little Blue Boy) plays Coleen Rooney, the eponymous Wagatha Christie. Her thick Liverpudlian accent is spot-on. Before we get to the trial, Santos reads out Coleen’s now-iconic social media post, in which she takes us through the steps she took to discover who was leaking posts from her private Instagram account. Of course, the case’s portmanteau acquired its popular name, Wagatha Christie, because Coleen’s investigation was like those seen in an Agatha Christie novel.
Santos hilariously ended her monologue just as Coleen ended hers: “It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account” – and, yes, she said “dot” ten times.
The “dot” is often repeated; we discover it’s a staple of Coleen’s social media posts. Santos says “dot” many times, at one point admitting that she uses dots a lot.
Rebekah Vardy, meanwhile, is played by Laura May Baker, who starred in the original UK cast of Spring Awakening. She chews up the scenery and brilliantly captures Vardy’s gaslighting and mental gymnastics.
The trial – again, a recreation of reality – has many twists and turns, with even Coleen having to explain herself when put on the witness stand. It is very much like a contemporary Agatha Christie story, or perhaps her courtroom-set play, Witness for the Prosecution.
Of course, we all know the verdict – or, if you have been living under a rock: Vardy lost the libel case – but the play still had me feeling tense as it approached the verdict. This play is a masterclass in how you tackle mystery comically but not melodramatically. Methinks it deserves its own screen adaptation.