Friday, 3 May 2013

Major Tom - Bristol Old Vic

Victoria Melody likes a challenge. And glancing at her website, it's more than clear that this is one woman who has turned her hand to a lot of different things - wreaking havoc in Office Pervert, screaming on hills around the country, and bending the genders of people in her audience... to name three.

In Major Tom, Victoria focuses on the beauty industry and uses her inherent desire to catalogue her day-to-day life to create a compelling and funny account of how she decided to enter her beloved basset hound (Major Tom) into competitive dog shows. What sets this show off a treat is that Major Tom (who Victoria describes, accurately, as looking like a lovable old Tory) is on set at Bristol Old Vic throughout the show, and behaves beautifully when Victoria calls on him to do one or two tricks. 

However, it turns out that Major isn't a winning dog, and when he repeatedly keeps coming last Victoria is stung by a pang of guilt at how she keeps putting him up there to be judged - so decides to be judged herself. Quickly crowned Mrs Brighton, Victoria's next mission is to become Mrs UK and ultimately Mrs International. 

This is where Major Tom takes an interesting twist. Victoria cleverly contrasts dog shows with human beauty pagents to highlight the ridiculous lengths that people go to in order to fulfil the ridiculous and inflexible demands of perfection in the eyes of judges. Ultimately, who is anyone else to judge us? 

At several points, Victoria tells us she's a feminist, and illustrates this with the example of how on her hen night, her friends are shocked to discover she has pubic hair - and Victoria seems surprised that any adult woman wouldn't have pubic hair. 

Beauty pagents, and the business of judging others on their appearance, are clearly thorny issues for feminists. When one of Gok Wan's I-can-make-you-look-better-than-you-currently-do-sister type shows was filming in Bristol a few years ago, his producers seemed surprised that the Bristol feminists declined the invitation to take part or watch the show being filmed. What with it being a decidedly un-sisterly activity. 

However, Victoria's take on beauty pagents (which she says she is now pleased to have left behind her) seems one fuelled more by curiosity and journalistic documentation, than a real desire to become a beauty queen - although she does also come across as very competitive in her desire to win (and I guess if you're going to do something, why not do it to the max?)!

Major Tom is a fun show, and Victoria has an extremely likeable stage presence. The show puts an interesting spin on how we look at ourselves and just how daft the beauty industry is. And did I mention that there's a dog on stage?!

Major Tom is on at Bristol Old Vic until May 4. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

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