Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama on Channel 4 review – the perfect comic courtroom melodrama


here’s a scene in Channel 4’s new Wagatha Christie docu-drama, Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama, which wonderfully encapsulates the mad ridiculousness of the whole footballers’ wives saga and the fact that it ever made it to court in the first place.

The scene comes towards the end of episode one and sees Michael Sheen, playing Coleen Rooney’s powerhouse lawyer David Sherborne, interrogating Rooney’s rival WAG – and the claimant of the case – Rebecca Vardy. Vardy, played by Natalia Tena, squirms in the witness box, struggling to explain why her publicist’s mobile phone had been conveniently dropped in the North Sea before lawyers were able to get hold of it.

“Why is it that your solicitors do not tell us about that for four months?” asks Sherborne, a flamboyant figure who counts Hugh Grant and Johnny Depp among his A-list clients. “You see the shame is, Mrs Vardy, that [these WhatsApp messages] are lying at the bottom of the sea, in Davy Jones’ locker.”

Vardy, sitting tearfully in the witness box, looks both exasperated and perplexed. “…who is Davy Jones?” she barks back, to a flutter of not-so-stifled laughter from the press pack at the back of the courtroom.

Sherborne’s obvious enjoyment of the case is expertly portrayed by Sheen. Not only does he appear to revel in the finer details of the whodunnit, like interrogating Vardy over the words “leak”, “ugh” and “ffs”, but he seems to clearly understands the extent to which the panto-esque saga has captured the nation: the high drama, the low stakes, the overlaps with situations in their own social media social circles.

Rebekah Vardy (Natalia Tena) is represented by Hugh Tomlinson QC (Simon Coury)

/ Channel 4

Fans are unlikely to need reminding of the story at the heart of the trial around which writer Chris Atkins’ two-part TV series is set — one that has already become the focus of West End show Vardy v Rooney: the Wagatha Christie Trial. Rooney’s so-called “sting operation” and (very public) outing of her former friend Vardy as the suspected leaker of her private Instagram posts to the Sun quickly became one of the standout where-were-you-when moments of 2019.

Atkins knows this, jumping straight to that infamous dot-dot-dot moment in the opening scene. “It’s…… Rebekah Vardy’s account,” a stone-faced Rooney (Chanel Cresswell) reads out loud in the first few minutes of the show, as she physically pens the words of that infamous ‘reveal post’ like some kind of Miss Marple figure, sitting in an elegant library in a crisp pink shirt. You hear the click of her pen as she writes out the dots of her exaggerated ellipsis and the sound of her phone as she uploads the final draft and publishes her unmasking of Vardy, before a chorus of shocked tweets erupt across the globe.

Scenes like this feel melodramatic, verging on parody — but perhaps that is Atkins’ point. The reality was too. Transcripts might have been “condensed and edited for clarity”, but the fact that the dramatisation has been “created from the courtroom transcripts and witness statements” certainly makes it all the more gripping. And even if you’re already well-versed in the standout moments from the case (Peter Andre’s “tiny chipolata”, Vardy’s comment that arguing with Coleen was “as pointless as arguing with a pigeon”, Wayne carrying his wife’s handbag into the trial), watching them re-told against a dramatic soundtrack certainly makes for popcorn-worthy viewing.

Then there are the new details, the ones that didn’t make it outside the courtroom at the time (or perhaps I’m not as hardcore a Wagatha fan as I thought): that Rooney posted 50 or so fake Instagram Stories that never made it into The Sun; that Vardy’s PR agent admitted “it was me” over WhatsApp while Vardy was watching Gemma Collins on Dancing on Ice; that Rooney saved dozens of the best Wagatha memes on her camera roll. “You were delighted by the reaction to this, weren’t you?” Vardy’s veteran lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC (Simon Coury) tells Rooney, who appears somewhat dead behind the eyes as she insists she’s hated every minute of the saga.

Natalia Tena as Rebekah Vardy

/ Channel 4

The comic two-parter is interspersed with fictional footage of the wives WhatsApping their respective PR agents from inside their sleek footballer mansions: in the bath, watering their plants, sunning themselves on holiday. But the bulk takes place inside the courtroom and while Sherbourne’s performance steals the show within the show, Tomlinson proves a worthy rival. “What you believe, Mrs Rooney, isn’t the same as what’s actually going to happen… You might believe that Derby County’s going to win the premiership, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to, does it?” he asks Rooney in one of several witty dressing-downs.

Rooney, who is said to be delighted with Channel 4’s portrayal of the trial, doesn’t escape the wrath of the witness box, but she certainly comes out a lot less bruised than Vardy, who crumbles and sobs under Sherborne’s ruthless cross-examinations and is later seen running out of the courtroom during his concluding statements. She ends up losing the case, the judge ruling that she must pay 90 per cent of Rooney’s legal costs.

“At times, you had to remind yourself that Vardy was the one who chose to bring this to trial, not the other way round,” entertainment reporter Rebecca Twomey points out in one of several streams of real-life commentary woven in.

“Some thought it was a waste of money; others thought it was the gift that keeps of giving,” one commentator says of the fact the case made it to the Royal Courts of Justice. “Why is this not a bank holiday?” another asks ahead of verdict day back in the summer. It’s a good question — and one that Channel 4 will have undoubtedly considered in its choosing to gift us its re-telling of the trial just ahead of several festive bank holidays. Grab the popcorn and a glass of mulled wine: for true Wagatha fans, this is sure to be the biggest Christmas gift of all.

Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama airs on December 21 and 22 on Channel 4 and All4

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