The Wagatha Christie trial was jaw-dropping. This Irish-directed dramatisation? Not so much

Television: Vardy v Rooney – A Courtroom Drama features lots of grim grilling of the footballers’ wives by their respective megabucks barristers

The Coleen Rooney–Rebekah Vardy saga played out like a supercharged episode of Footballers’ Wives. With its jaw-dropping mix of hubris, glamour and mobile phones vanishing in puzzling circumstances, it has the makings of a stonking melodrama, so you may sit down to this dramatic re-enactment with a certain degree of glee. A pre-Christmas retelling of the Wagatha Christie story? It sounds like a guilty pleasure with bells on.

But that isn’t quite what the writer Chris Atkins and the director Oonagh Kearney – who is from Ballintemple, in Cork city – serve up in Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama (Channel 4, Wednesday, 9pm). The two-part retelling of this year’s Rooney-Vardey libel trial instead plays it straight, with the dialogue taken directly from court transcripts. So there’s lots of grim grilling of Vardy and Rooney by their respective megabucks barristers, and not a lot else. Anyone tuning in expecting a Wagtastic time might be underwhelmed by a rather humourless courtroom procedural.

The affair, of course, kicked off in 2019, when Rooney, the wife of the former England soccer captain Wayne, accused Vardy, who is married to the Leicester City striker Jamie, of leaking private Instagram stories to the tabloids. Vardy sued – which is how the two ended up in court, discussing their WhatsApp messages and their respective appetites for fame.

In part one, Vardy (Natalia Tena) is in the dock, questioned by Rooney’s lawyer, David Sherborne (Michael Sheen, playing the barrister as a picture of self-regarding legalistic bumptiousness). Sherborne, who has also represented Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and Johnny Depp, is theatrically cruel towards Vardy.


He asserts that her definition of the word “leak” differs from everyone else’s and quizzes her about an interview in the Sun in which she was dismissive of the manhood of her former love interest Peter Andre, likening it to “a miniature chipolata” sausage.

There is also the mystery of a mobile phone containing crucial communications between Vardy and her agent that managed to fall into the North Sea. Fun is had at the deadpan Vardy’s expense when Sherborne declares that the handset, with all those WhatsApp messages about Rooney (Chanel Cresswell), has mystifyingly ended up in Davy Jones’ locker. “Who’s Davy Jones?” wonders Vardy. The press gallery cannot contain itself.

Otherwise, it’s dry stuff. Part two, airing on Thursday, is more exciting thanks largely to the appearance in the witness box of a baffled-looking Wayne Rooney (Dion Lloyd) – the only moment when proceedings swerve towards the unintentional comedy for which some viewers may have hoped.

In sticking to the facts, and just showing viewers the case as it unfolded, Channel 4 has robbed the saga of that delirious fun factor. Perhaps that is only right: this was, after all, a libel trial, not a reality show. Yet, for viewers expecting pyrotechnics, the legalese and the tepid pacing add up to a let-down. There’s too much gristle in this sausage.