Puppy, The Vaults Festival
Puppy is the story of lesbianism, feminism and porn in a patriarchal world. Naomi Westerman’s piece, produced by Little But Fierce, is unashamedly open about sex and sexuality but perhaps it says more about me than Westerman that I enjoyed the group scenes rather than the intimate two-handers.
Puppy is basically a big F-you to everything; traditional, heteronormative romances and weak women dominate many plays but not here. Our two leads are Lesbians (though one thinks she may be bisexual after coming out as a lesbian at 12), one is a porn star, who enjoys sex and is funding her PhD rather than an addiction and the other is a bookmaker. It isn’t that the concept doesn’t work-women like sex and PhDs are expensive, but I struggled with the two leads, not because I wasn’t convinced by them but by their relationship. The two leads barely touch and it isn’t that a play about sex needs to be sexual but the rest of the play very much is. The direction of the dogging and porn audition scenes are very sexual and wonderfully directed Rafaella Marcus but the lack of chemistry between porn star Maya (Lily Driscoll) and Jaz (Rebekah Murrell) is very disappointing in a play that has the potential to be groundbreaking.
Where the play gets interesting in Maya’s emergence as feminist porn icon and has lots to say on the amendment to the 2003 Communications Act and subsequent protests, where women sat on faces and Nick Clegg got involved. It is seen as being anti-women and promoting a UK porn industry that is meeting the needs of men, and not the women involved or who are viewers. I do wish Westerman’s play had focused more on this, it needs the character of Maya but she doesn’t need a dull relationship to vindicate her. It also means we get to see more of the great support cast (Maria Austin, Benjamin Chandler, Andrew Lawson and Jo Wickham) and Marcus seems to be at her best when directing groups, with a montage of Maya’s porn company’s growing success being one of the highlights, aided by Will Alder’s strong sound and light design.
This is very much a work in progress and my suggestion would be to have less of the romance and more of the sexuality, which is actually interesting, funny and gives the audience something to care about it.
Puppy is now finished but you can follow Naomi Westerman‘s work via her website.