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Fact Check: Liv Hennessy’s courtroom drama is more panto than Two Angry Women Rebekah Vardy Coleen Rooney

By Steve Heldon

Never mind the World Cup: the most contentious fixture this season is Wag vs Wag, as the legal case that gripped a nation becomes rapid-response verbatim theatre. Liv Hennessy – who, handily, has a soap opera background – has judiciously snipped highlights from the High Court transcript of this summer’s outlandish libel case, when Rebekah Vardy unsuccessfully sued Coleen Rooney. The latter had claimed that stories were being leaked from her private Instagram to The Sun, following a cunning sting operation which earned Rooney the moniker Wagatha Christie.

Now, this show joins Agatha Christie’s own plays in the West End. But it’s hardly a solemn courtroom drama akin to her Witness for the Prosecution, nor a Twelve Angry Men-turned-Two Angry Women. It’s more like panto: the audience whoops, boos, and greets the silliest moments – like Peter Andre’s manhood being compared to a chipolata, or Vardy’s Davy Jones confusion – with the same delighted recognition as “He’s behind you”. 

The dramatic potential of the trial is obvious; a Channel 4 drama is also on the way. And there’s a definite frisson when actress Lucy May Barker makes her entrance sporting Vardy’s signature oversized sunglasses, while staring down a medical boot-wearing Rooney (Laura Dos Santos; both are spot-on depictions that steer clear of Spitting Image parody). But can we really learn anything new when every word and fashion choice has already been feverishly dissected?

In short: no. It’s fun to watch a live-action version, since we weren’t allowed in the actual courtroom, but the only deviation from the trial is light-hearted commentary from two pretend pundits (the witty design also incorporates a football pitch). Lisa Spirling’s spry production does capture the absurd incongruity of modern celebrity and social media culture crashing into the grandiose legal system, and it relishes the juxtaposition between Vardy’s pious testimony and her catty, fame-hungry WhatsApp exchanges with her agent. Although Vardy continues to profess innocence, including in a new Discovery+ documentary, she comes off as utterly disingenuous here.

Yet there’s surely potential for a meatier play, one that really interrogates how technology has contributed to a blurring of our public and private lives, and how the law trails far behind. Instead, this re-creation is a quick-hit guilty pleasure: it further invades Rooney’s privacy for our amusement, while making the attention-seeking Vardy an unlikely West End star. Nor is there a real public interest argument, as with the recent verbatim staging of the Grenfell Inquiry. Like the World Cup, it’s Entertainment: 1, Morality: 0.

Performances Nov 29, Dec 6, 13, 20, Jan 10. Tickets: 0344 482 5151;

Source: Healthy Duck.