Major Tom - Theatre review

Victoria Melody & Major Tom -  Liquid Photo (c)2104

I am going to come straight out and say it: I love this show! After all, it features an adorable dog, a very funny woman, it’s sort of about being a feminist but without bashing you over the head with it… what’s not to love?

Major Tom tells the true story of a Bassett Hound (Major Tom) and his mistress, Victoria Melody and how they became unlikely victors in the battles of beauty and breeding. Part documentary, part stand-up and part theatre, Victoria Melody and Major Tom each respectively take us on a hilariously crackers journey through the process of one becoming a beauty queen and the other, a championship show dog,

As we enter the theatre we have to step over Major Tom, who is laying in the doorway, to be greeted by Ms Melody. The stage is lit with red and blue light and big wooden letters spelling out ‘MAJOR TOM’ in white lights sit along the back wall, Bowie plays over the P.A. Major Tom enters, going along the audience in the front row and giving them a good old sniffing out, before plonking himself on a big cushion at the front of the performing area. Ms Melody warns us that it is likely that this is the most Major Tom will do for the rest of the evening due to his laid back approach to life.

Nicknamed ‘Big Bugger’ by his breeder, Major Tom came into the possession of Ms Melody and her partner as the last in the litter of Bassett puppies. He is clearly a dog people find hard to ignore, as we see from the footage on his ‘doggy-cam’ which is projected onto a screen showing a trip out into Brighton. He is extremely well connected, Ms Melody informs us, having met Jodie Marsh, Preston from the Ordinary Boys, Trevor McDonald and Ron Weasley’s Dad. When people begin to suggest that he should be entered into dog shows, Ms Melody takes him to the South East Bassett Hound show, where he cleans up, winning Biggest Ears and Best in Show. So encouraged by the response at the amateur shows, they progress on to professional dog shows and this is where they run into trouble. He’s too big, he’s too black, his ribcage is too wide, the judge cups his bollocks and he doesn’t like it, and the other exhibitors snub them.

Ms Melody perseveres, taking him to Ring Craft Classes with a man called Brian (‘…everyone associated with Bassett hounds is called Brian. This is a fact’), who teaches them how to show his best assets or ‘B-assets’ as it were. Ms Melody wants to show us some of the things they learn and gets out Major’s special show lead which apparently makes him transform into the perfect show dog… when his mistress approaches him with it, with perfect comic timing Major barely lifts his wrinkled forehead to shoot her the best side-eye I’ve seen since Tyra Banks. Smackos work better apparently.

After some time, Ms Melody begins to feel guilty about putting Major in the firing line of so much negative attention; her friends call him ‘walking prozac’ after all, who cares if he’s too big or stinks (which he does by the way, but he wears it well). Consequently, she decides to enter a beauty competition in solidarity and ends up as Mrs Brighton. What ensues is a laugh out loud story about her and Major’s rise to the top: hers to become Mrs Universe, and his to make it to Crufts.

What is really interesting and clever about this show, is while being absolutely hilarious, it does begin to draw comparisons between how we talk about animals and how we talk about women. Now stick with me here, of course one can’t ignore the traditional derogatory dog/woman trope. However, in this show it is not in the usual out-and-out degrading fashion, but in a more subtle, under-the-radar way – the dog’s coat vs the woman’s hair and skin, their teeth, the ‘balance’ of the body, the posing or ‘stacking’ as it’s known in the dog world… the list goes on. It also highlights how easy it is, despite best intentions, to become sucked into this world of striving for perfection, competiveness and judging others – the dehumanising effects of becoming ‘a project’ to be worked upon, whether by a personal trainer, plastic surgeon, hairdresser, breeder, handler or ring craft expert is quite unnerving when both stories are told simultaneously in this way. The utter ridiculousness of it all is laid bare. As they develop, both groups (the women and the dogs), begin to look like clones of each other and the judges panels begin to merge into one as they scrutinize the competitors. I shan’t spoil for you what happens to them in the end, but I couldn’t help feeling extremely happy for both their outcomes.

If you can, go and see this show. Its mix of documentary video footage, direct delivery and doggy comic timing will make you laugh out loud, it will make you think and it will make you happier knowing that these two are out there somewhere making people smile. If some clever TV company knows what’s good for them they’d give this pair their own TV show – they could give Louis Theroux a run for his money!

Madelaine Moore ©2014
Photo: Liquid Photo ©2014
Reviewed on 11th March 2014
Running time: 75 mins

At BAC until 15th March, touring until June.

Victoria Melody
Major Tom

Created and Performed - Victoria Melody
Dramaturg - Paul Hodson
Creative Mentor – Ursula Martinez
Production Manager and Lighting Designer – Greg Mickelborough
Camera Operators – Louise Purnell, Juice Productions, Wiggly Line Productions, Rosie Powell
Editors - Wiggly Line Productions, Victoria Melody
Set Builders – Paul Harrison
Photography – Liquid Photo

Author's review: 
No rating