The football metaphor was just too good to pass over, I suppose. And so it goes with Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial. As we enter the plush auditorium of The Lowry the crowing chants of a Saturday afternoon crowd can be heard pulsing from the speakers.
Curtain up (or should that be kick-off?) and onto the stage arrive two match commentators who, if this was a tragedy, would be the perfect stand-in for a Greek chorus. The commentators – capably handled by Nathan McMullen and Halema Hussain – set the scene for the game ahead and each take sides in the ensuing 90-minute grudge match.
And perhaps that’s not stretching the whole affair too far, for many people no doubt looked upon the whole torrid affair between Rooney and Vardy as some grotesque game better kept to the confines of the playground that is social media.
Nevertheless, here we have the two WAGS are battling it out in front of a packed-out crowd, not at Wembley like their spouses, but in the vaulted chambers of the High Court.
Based on court transcripts and with explanatory injections from our match commentators, the play is a hugely enjoyable romp through the privileged and spoilt world our two heroines inhabit. Vardy strides into court attached to a pair of sunglasses darkened with intent, Rooney – ever the proud Scouse mum and wife – wearing a simple summer dress and daggers in her eyes.
Lucy May Barker brilliantly portrays Rebekah Vardy’s feigned shock at red top revelations, while Laura Dos Santos reveals Coleen Rooney to be the steely Scouse queen not to be crossed.
But these two aren’t the only stars. Currently appearing in another ‘theatre’ alongside Prince Harry is superstar barrister David Sherbourne who leads Vardy through a hilarious sequence of unintended non-sequiturs and malapropisms, perhaps the most famous of which is her question about who Davey Jones is (he of locker fame). Urbane and knowing, Sherbourne (a finely tuned performance from Tom Turner) leads Vardy to her inevitable fate, while her own long-suffering barrister, Hugh Tomlinson (Jonnie Broadbent, who must be given a five star review if only for his amazing cartwheel at the curtain call) does his best to rescue his client while attempting to portray Rooney as a victim of her own lust for publicity.
While the show does not take itself seriously and hams up celebrity culture, it cannot but touch upon serious issues surrounding the price of fame, whether privacy is possible in the age of social media, and the futility of taking mud-slinging arguments through the judicial system. It shows Vardy as twice the loser: losing not only her case and dignity but being the target of vile abuse on social media no civilised person could condone.
Absent from the proceedings – but central to the case – is Vardy’s agent Caroline Watt who is represented by an empty chair on the stage. Like any good detective story – and Sherbourne reminds us that this is very much a detective story – there are still questions to be answered about this very 21st century trial.
The ref – sorry, I mean the judge – blew the final whistle on a fantastic performance complete with very canny Scouse accents.
Vardy V Rooney, The Wagatha Christie Trial is at The Lowry from 9-11 June 2023.