The Vaults Festival @ THE MORLEY COLLEGE STUDIO, London
Written by Naomi Westerman, Directed by Rafaella Marcus
I originally chose to see Puppy as I am a big fan of small furry creatures. I will up front now say, bit of a spoiler, there are no actual puppies in the show, but what the show does contain is not disappointing and does make you forget about puppies.
Puppy tells the tale of two young women who seem to choose a dogging site as a meet-up point for their first date. From there they fall for each other deeply whilst admitting that their sexualities aren’t so clear cut and we are pulled along as their relationship grows and changes along with the feminist porn industry they create. Tackling sexuality, love, porn and how women are rarely given a fair deal in these matters; what’s not to love? Nothing, really.
As you can see Puppy tackles a lot of current issues but it never feels like an outright political piece, largely in part to the gripping and personal script from Naomi Westerman. The writer manages to present us with two very likable but humanly flawed characters to guide us through these matters, who always act with the best intentions, no matter where that actually gets them. This makes the whole piece that much more believable and gives it a hook that sinks into your heart, draggin you right into the flow. In Puppy there are so many issues being dealt with but thanks to these thoroughly fleshed out characters there is a friendly feel, like being down at the pub with some mates, rather than an essay being a delivered. I would love to see the piece taken further and include more characters to present other stories and viewpoints on these issues.
All this is given life by a very personable cast bringing a simple beautiful relationship to the stage which you can feel the warmth glowing off. Rebekah Murrell brings a tender performance of a slightly awkward young person looking for someone to help them find their feet, whilst Lilly Driscoll gives a very decisive character with a hard shell, with cracks slightly showing through to her less confident self. The simple comfortable intimacy between this couple makes you both relaxed and engaged, never missing a beat. These two characters are supported by a superbly simple chorus (comprising of Maria Austin, Andrew Lawston, Jo Wickham and Benjamin Chandler) of performers playing enthusiastic doggers, pervy journos and Nick Clegg (yes) , providing some comic relief to break the tension when needed.
Puppy is given a unique style and vision from the Rafaella Marcus’ direction, making simple choices that focus the audience’s attention on the struggles and choices these characters face, despite it taking on a lot of different issues. Sometimes this approach became a bit too relaxed for me and I felt the staging for some conversations was a bit too still, but nothing that took away from the show. It is given a nice strong design with punky transitions giving a vibrant break and some little clever bits of scenery.
Puppy is a powerful important piece which most effective tool is showing the stories and hearts of the women affected by the way sexuality is presented around women rather than becoming a political piece focusing purely on issues. Woven together beautifully thanks to touching performances, well observed scripting and simplistic direction this is something that leaves you smiling and thinking which I hope to see developing and performing in the years to come.
This production has now closed, but be sure to follow @LBFTheatre in Twitter for news of future productions.
© Daniel Ramsden – 2017 – @DanielRamsdenFL