In this unconventional love story, girl meets girl whilst engaging in some light, recreational dogging (“it’s a hobby, like — It’s mostly social”), giving a subversive new meaning to what we know as ‘puppy love’ (the play in its current form contains no actual puppies, sorry!). As they explore the limits of their love, and each other, their minds meet over a new idea, to take on the patriarchy with feminist porn. But the course of true love, and lust, never did run smooth and with the passing of THAT pornography (the one drafted in 2016), they find themselves fighting for the right to pleasure that threatens their very identities.
Puppy stacks feminism with porn, sex with sexuality, patriarchy with protest and crams it all into a one act, no mean feat, and yet Westerman weaves these challenging issues together thorough the journey of the two young girls, in a way that doesn’t feel forced but liberating.
The swift pace of the play holds it all together, with transitions from sweet scenes of pillow talk to full blown protest, we see their thoughtful internal dialogues and the conflicting views from the media’s harsh light, thrown into sharp relief.
From the loud to the quiet with blaring pop music in between, these transitions can sometimes be a little jarring, but the effect serves to highlight the unnecessarily over-bearing media, throwing their weight behind what are personal and sometimes sensitive issues. It also adds to the un-polished hue of the overall piece, which in exposing the expectations on all women, regardless of sexual preference, is similarly exposed in its stripped back props and set space.
The performances are conversational and unabashed, the two young girls full of youthful confidence and ambition, precariously balanced with self-doubt and periodic identity crises. Rebekah Murrell brings unassuming confidence and a sweet inquisitivity to the softer character of Jaz, offsetting what the tabloids might call the “militant feminist” figure of Maya, played with bite by Lilly Driscoll.
The topics explored by Puppy are not going away but becoming more pertinent daily, so brazen writing like Westerman’s should not only be encouraged but heralded as essential. There is a lot of scope here for the gender and identify issues Puppy raises to be tackled further and in more depth. The play is at its most convincing in the quieter moments, in the sincere and candid conversations between the two girls; the opportunity to develop and lengthen the play in order to get to know them a little better would make this play really bark.