Originally published in Exeunt
Two women meet and fall in love whilst engaging in a spot of dogging – the start to every classic fairytale romance. Well, it is in Puppy at least, a work-in-progress play by Naomi Westerman. Jaz (Rebekah Murrell) is nervous, new to the scene; Maya (Lilly Driscoll) is self-assured, a well-known name with the regulars. Westerman’s script opens with a distinctly middle class feel, as if dogging is a typical after-work activity that middle-aged couple engage in weekly – Mondays is Yoga, Tuesdays is Dogging and Wednesdays is band practice. It feels awkward; it some ways it should be, but ultimately Rafaella Marcus doesn’t capitalise on these uncomfortable moments.
Jaz (Murrell) gives the most believable performance – initially off kilter but overall comfortable with her character, her behaviours and her truth. Maya (Driscoll) is the focus of the story however, a porn actor that redefines the industry with feminist porn and spearheads the face-sitting protest outside Westminster as it attempts to clamp down on the porn industry, ironically by banning nipple clamps. The story is an interesting one that shines a new light on that reported by the media in recent years, but the execution is far from perfect. For a show that requires a free and frank discussion about the adult entertainment industry, Driscoll in particular is unnatural and monotone in her delivery. She talks about porn as if it were an academic discussion point, devoid of sentiment and emotion. It’s too robotic, which may be a futuristic interpretation of the industry but misses the point of the issues today.
Parts of Puppy have a better flow, particularly an audition type situation where porn stars are required to engage in more and more extreme acts, all in the name of selling videos. The industry reaches a point in which the only way it can generate views is to become more alternative, more derogatory and ultimately more dangerous. Spanking; rimming; ropes, all replaced now with defecation; strangulation; sadistic domination. So Maya’s new brand of feminist porn, where the women can choose the scenes, the partners, the levels to which they are prepared to go, is an empowering turn of events. But even this doesn’t receive the attention it deserves – the message is lost in conversation between Maya and Jaz one morning.
Dogging is so cliché nowadays, an activity that one can even imagine Nick Clegg (Andrew Lawston) participating in. Puppy is a work in progress and as such it merited with development opportunity, but needs to break away from the forgettable and explore the key topics at the heart of the story in more depth.
Director: Rafaella Marcus
Producer: Little But Fierce Theatre Company
Writer: Naomi Westerman
Design: Will Alder (Lighting; Sound)
Cast: Lilly Driscoll; Rebekah Murrell; Maria Austin; Benjamin Chandler; Andrew Lawston; Jo Wickham
Puppy is a Work In Progress show and was reviewed on 2 March. For more details, see the website.