Written and Performed by Victoria Melody
April 23-May 2, 2015
The Cherry Lane Theatre
MAJOR TOM is the story of how an average 34 year old became a beauty queen and how her unruly pet basset hound, Major Tom, became a championship show dog. Major Tom and Victoria increasingly immerse themselves in the obsessive and confusing realm of personal scrutiny as they participate as genuine contestants, determined to win. Victoria, accompanied on stage by documentary film footage and her dog, tells this true story. It explores the British fascination with celebrity, beauty and winning.
“A truly winning comedy, I laughed till I cried.”
VICTORIA MELODY (writer/performer) studied visual art and is very interested in anthropology. Now she mainly makes one-woman theatrical shows about England’s pastimes, passions and tribes. She immerses herself into communities and becomes a participant. In the past she has become a pigeon racer, a northern soul dancer, a championship dog handler and a beauty queen. She documents everything she does by film, photographs, diaries and collecting objects. She has presented her work in the UK including venues such as Soho Theatre, Carriageworks, Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Tobacco Factory and BAC. She has also presented work internationally in 2013 at Push Festival (Vancouver), Canoe Theatre Festival (Edmonton) and Interrarium (Banff).
Watch the MAJOR TOM trailer
Visit Victoria’s Vimeo page
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Artistic Director Michael Wolk sat down with Victoria Melody to discuss her inspiration for MAJOR TOM, the process of writing and developing it, and her 100+ performances of the show.
Q: What moved you to write MAJOR TOM?
I’ve always been passionate about people who have passions—it’s like my hobby is people who have hobbies. So, in the past I’d always made work about these different tribes.
When I got a dog, I entered this members-only, exclusive club of dog owners. When you have a dog, people think they have a license to speak to you. You’re suddenly public property. And people kept saying, “Oh, what a wonderful dog you’ve got, you need to put him into dog shows.”
So I took him, out of interest, to an amateur show, and he won. And I started to notice that there was this group of people that I could maybe get in with, because Major Tom was the ticket into this tribe. So I started showing him on the amateur circuit…and he won everything. That’s when it started to get serious, and a little bit more feral.
Q: Why are you uniquely qualified to tell this story?
I don’t know whether anyone else would want to put themselves through the rigorous research that I put myself through. When I join that tribe of people and I start participating in something like dog shows and beauty pageants, it takes over my actual life, and in fact I start to wonder, “What is my real life, and what is my research?”
To look like a genuine beauty pageant contestant, I had to physically change…. I had to lose a lot of weight. I got hair extensions, I got eyelash extensions, I got waxed in places that I’d never been waxed before…I got wrapped up in wet bandages, and left there to stand in the freezing cold for forty minutes.… I had spray tans, I completely physically changed.
It was interesting to see what I would look like as that sort of media perfect me. And it was more interesting to see how people responded to me, and how different that was.
Also, I’m quite good at morphing into the people around me.… I’m very good at getting people’s secrets. Because I’m very open, and people respond very openly to me. So, I really get to the bottom of things.
Q: Why is the show timely for you, and for us? Why now?
There’s a lot of pressure on young people to look amazing all of the time. And…there are these impossible standards. There are these impossible standards, not only for women, but for dogs.
I put my dog into these professional dog shows. He was measured up against this breed standard, literally measured, and his personality wasn’t taken into account. Major Tom, the dog, may not have measured up to the breed standard, but he’s got his name in lights in a show in New York. I mean, what’s better? Having a perfect-sized nose?
There’s been a huge thing in the UK where any woman above the age of 40 has basically been sacked off television. There’s a place for older men, but not for women. And I’m sort of going into that area now. So it was interesting to become this…stereotypically beautiful me, to see its faults.
At some point I became a bit vain and competitive, and they’re not really great character attributes. And now I’ve really rebelled against it. Obviously all the hair extensions went, my figure returned back to normal, although I had to go on a diet coming to America because I can’t fit into my dresses and we can’t let them out any more.
It’s been quite a discovery. I don’t really care about measuring up to anybody’s standard of beauty anymore. Quite the opposite: The thing I’m striving for is to leave a legacy of some great art. That’s more important to me than beauty.
Q: How do you feel about debuting Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane?
This is the best thing I’ve made, and so I’m really happy to share it with New York. And it’s going to be the last time, as well. After this, we’re going retire Major Tom. We’re going hang up his rosettes.
We’ve performed over 100 times…it’s had really good innings, and I’ve loved doing it. And so has Major…Major loves an audience. You’ll see. But yeah, it’s gonna be the last time.
We’re going out with a bang.