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Major Tom - Battersea Arts Centre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

MAJOR Tom, presented by Victoria Melody and Farnham Maltings, will visit Battersea Arts Centre (March 10 to March 15, 2014) as part of a national tour.

Major Tom is the true story of how Victoria became a beauty queen and her Bassett Hound (Major Tom) became a champion show dog, reflecting the British fascination with celebrity, beauty and winning.

Performer and artist Victoria Melody entered Mrs Galaxy UK (the “married” version of Miss UK) to explore her own prize-winning potential after being inspired by the struggles of her Bassett Hound (Major Tom), a star of the amateur dog show circuit, but widely criticised once in the professional realm.

She spent the last year appearing as “Mrs Brighton”, after winning her regional round, and has undertaken a wide range of public appearances as a beauty queen, documented through film and video in the show.

An artistic experiment that took over Melody’s life as she delved further into an obsessive and confusing realm of personal scrutiny, Major Tom questions the seductive power of beautification, celebrity and competition.

When Major Tom graduated from the amateur to professional dog show circuit, he kept coming last: the judges would never take his personality into account but were only interested in his looks, from his ears, to his colour, and even the size of his ribcage.

While he wasn’t perfect, (a bit smelly, perhaps, and with a voracious sexual appetite for Greyhounds) Melody felt guilty that “Major Walking Prozac” was being subjected to such criticism. If Major was being scrutinised, she believed she should be too, and so she started to enter beauty pageants.

Melody documented her year through film and photography and the performance has a strong multi-media element. Her eccentric, ethnographic approach to making performances finds her immersing herself in other people’s worlds, examining national characteristics and focusing on the extraordinary in the everyday.

Victoria Melody said: “I create the material for my shows by becoming an active participant in other people’s sub-cultures. Audiences re-live mine and my dog’s experiences, as we become in this case a beauty queen and a champion show dog.

“I believe art is for everyone, the audience is at the heart of the work and that is why I have tried my hardest to create a piece of theatre that not only appeals to the most ardent art critic or political activist, but also to people who are just up for a laugh or to people who are intimidated and skeptical about art like my Nan.”

Victoria Melody is a British artist with a background in fine art. She makes one-woman theatrical shows, performance interventions and films mainly about England’s pastimes, passions and tribes. Fascinated by anthropology, she immerses herself into communities and becomes an active participant in their rituals as research for her work.

Aside from her work as a beauty queen and championship dog handler, she has also been a pigeon racer and northern soul dancer. She is currently tracing her human hair extensions back to the humans who grew them.

Created, performed and designed by Victoria Melody, Major Tom has dramaturgy by Paul Hodson and lighting by Greg Mickelborough.

Major Tom is suitable for ages 14+.

Tickets: £12, £9 concessions – available from the box office on 020 7223 2223 or online at www.bac.org.uk/.

Time: 7.30pm.

From BAC the tour will continue to the Wales Millennium Centre, Manchester, Gloucester, Dunmow, Hull, Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Margate, Thanet, Ramsgate, Torbay (tbc), Canada Water Library, London, Brighton, Darlington, Falmouth, Exeter and Uckfield.