It sounds like the premise for a particularly insane BBC3 documentary: urged on by friends and family, performer Victoria Melody decided to enter her enormous Basset hound Major Tom into the world of professional dog shows. Feeling guilty about the chilly reception he received, Melody decided that it would only be fair if she put herself up for scrutiny as well – and so duly enrolled herself in Mrs Galaxy UK, a beauty pageant for married women.
She filmed much of this, and this charming piece of docu-theatre is the end result. It's an affable chat through the whole bizarre process conducted by Melody, with the limited support of Major Tom himself, an enormous, wrinkly creature who spends the bulk of the show having a good doze.
There is, at the bottom of it all, an ambivalent interrogation of the competitive drive, a consideration of both its toxicity and the allure – something that seems particularly apt in the attention-seeking bear pit of the Fringe.
Nonetheless, the perma-grinning Melody gives the air of a woman who had a whale of a time throughout, and ‘Major Tom’ feels less an examination of the human spirit, more a delightful curio, like an hour of being talked through a really, really odd holiday video.
More substance or incisiveness might have made for a more powerful work of theatre – but it wouldn’t have been half so loveable. Like its eponymous hero, ‘Major Tom’ doesn’t necessarily achieve all that much, but it’s delightful having it around.
Review by Stella Willow
Battersea Arts Centre, one of the coolest, most beautiful and creatively proactive venues in London is a must-have experience for exploratory theatregoers and in this case, canine lovers. I’ve come to review a dog, oh and a beauty queen too. “What has my life come to?” It’s a Basset Hound, and how does anyone of fair mind, critique a dog who looks so obviously sad from beginning to end?
We wait, as eager beavers at the bottom of the marble staircase, waiting to be ushered to the performance space. The veggie goulash in the bar was delish, I’m full, I am waiting…
We haven’t gone in yet, maybe the dog’s having a bad day, or just dog-tired? A lady sympathetically asks “Is the dog okay?” We’re greeted in the entrance way of the Recreation Room by the double act themselves, one Victoria Melody with pet, Major Tom. We stroke Major and are handed an A4 programme sheet as we enter to Bowie’s ‘Major Tom’ lyrics. I’m loving it and it hasn’t even begun.
Victoria walks Major across the stage, close to our seats, opening up more opportunity to stroke the beast before he rests himself on a large white cushion by a bowl of water and a towel, licking his lips.
We are welcomed for coming. It’s stated Major’s “unlikely to do anything but lie here for the entire show”.
It’s stand-up comedy; Melody, in a short stripy dress, forges ahead on the how’s and why’s of buying her dog. Scampering through professional dog walking, dogs on death row, impregnating bitches and her first meeting with Major who was twice the size of the rest of the pack and nicknamed “big bugger”. Pulling his awfully long docile ears, turning his cushion, comparing him to a Tory (he reads too, in an awfully posh voice), we sit enthralled with equal attention on both enigmatic performers.
Festering fun film projections of “walkies” with Major Tom abound with a sharp mix of life’s idiosyncrasies of dog shows and beauty pageants. Beauty pageants for the slightly older woman and strict beauty regimes for both Victoria and Major.
It’s real, down to earth with a bump and more than a giggle, an explosion of laughter, as we are led by a metaphorical lead, through the trials of dog-breeding, texting dog-dating and kinky revelations of Major’s sexual preferences. Progressing to amateur, professional and the ultimate dog show of dog shows Crufts, a mix with the snubbing of dog handlers and breeders.
Melody measures her own creation beautifully, packing it with raw and funny observations in a unique way, letting her energy and mood change as she recognises perhaps “the pattern of failure” as she draws closer to her conclusion. Ultimately she’s a feminist laughing at herself with a tremendous love for her dog. This is a top pedigree show, deserving a first prize rosette… Roll on more Melody and Major adventures.