LOWDOWN Summer 2013
OUR COVER FEATURE by Tony Roberts

MAJOR TOM - Vicky Melody’s new show about
Basset Hounds and Beauty Pageants

Vicky Melody is a South East Branch member who, with husband Mitch, owns Major Tom - many of you will know will know this handsome tricolour male hound.

Vicky’s intriguing new one-person/one-hound show, Major Tom, was staged as part of this year’s Brighton Festival in May.

A few of us from the Branch were part of a very enthusiastic audience to hear Vicky’s entertaining tale of how she and Major Tom had spent the previous year chasing success in the odd and vainglorious worlds of beauty pageants and dog shows.

Vicky introduced Major Tom who seemed totally unfazed by being centre of attention - he quickly settled down on his bed on the stage with his favourite treat while Vicky began told the story of how he was acquired from a lady in Dungeness. The Basset Hound’s ability to sleep for eighteen hours-a-day was a particularly attractive trait; plus, “He looks like an old Tory”.

Major Tom quickly fitted into his new home, but hated being left on his own, and so accompanied Vicky everywhere. They joined the South East Branch which Vicky mentions with some affection, especially our Chairman, Brian - who reminded her of a genial “retired colonel”.

They attended our Fun Day in 2010 and entered Tom into the fun classes, winning the Most Handsome Dog class and, much to Vicky’s surprise, went on to win Best in Show. A video illustrating this was projected on a screen behind Vicky as she told her story.

It was fun to watch Maureen Pearcey, the Fun Day judge (see right), and our own Jean Miller (who stewarded) discuss which hound from the line-up of class winners should win the top prize.

Fresh from this success, Vicky enters other local dog shows with equal success, but realising that Major Tom needs some serious training, she enrolls him in ringcraft classes at Handcross.

“This is run by another Brian. Everyone in the world of Basset Hounds is called Brian!”.

At this point in the show, Major Tom demonstrates what he learned - how he is ‘stacked’ and how he can ‘do a triangle’, but not before having an inordinately long drink of from his water bowl - making the audience wait, but which they found very funny.

As Major Tom comes under greater scrutiny at various shows, Vicky feels that she too should subject herself to being judged on her looks, and so enters herself into the equally weird world of beauty pageants.

She finds herself becoming ‘the project’ of all the various advisers with whom she comes in contact. She gets advice on how to walk, trains hard at a gym, and goes to beauty salon reassuringly called Turn Beautiful.

Vicky enters a competition called Mrs Brighton, and wins.

Meanwhile, suitably garbed in tweeds, she moves Major Tom up a league by entering him into Championship Dog shows with a view to qualifying for the greatest show of all - Crufts.

However, Vicky notices how unfriendly her fellow competitors are towards her. (Sadly, I think this is a too common experience for newcomers to the show scene. Competitive dog showing certainly doesn’t bring the best out of some people). Unfortunately, this coolness also coincided with the end of Tom’s winning streak. She was told he was just too big by one judge.

Undeterred, Vicky and her luckless hound toured the country, vainly trying to get a result which would open the door to Crufts.

Along with this, as Mrs Brighton, Vicky makes numerous personal appearances - some with Tom in tow.

She is accepted into the Mrs UK 2013 final, however an entry fee of several hundred pounds was needed. One of the funniest parts of the show is when Vicky hits upon a way to fund this.

A slimming club offers the similar amount she is after as a prize for the person who loses the most weight. Vicky decides to take part - but not before eating herself silly and piling on the pounds before the first weigh-in. However, while in this temporary larger state she has to attend a meeting with the other contestants in the national Mrs UK competition for a dress selection. Needless to say, her plans go a little array, and she gets beaten by another slimmer who sheds more weight.

“A piece that is both startlingly bonkers and utterly ordinary at the same time... deceptively thoughtful fun.”

The Guardian



As for Major Tom, his fortunes change as he comes before a judge who appreciates his qualities and he gains a qualification for Crufts.

Both Tom and Vicky’s beauty regimes leading up to their big contests are wittily shown in split-screen shots. The synchronised images showing work on nails, hair/fur, and general grooming are all very funny.

Then, on to the ‘big day’. At Crufts, Vicky is pleased to see ‘nice Brian’ and discovers that, due to many protest non-attendances this year, Major Tom is in a Post Graduate Dog class of only five hounds. Vicky looks down the line-up and fancies her chances.

The dream ending - Major Tom and Mrs Brighton both winning - is denied us, but the narrative is all the better for this. Vicky is beaten by an unsmiling rival, though she gets the award for the Prettiest Smile and the ‘Mrs’ who completed the most personal appearances.

The show finishes with the journey coming full-circle - or full-triangle - with the pair assuming their former personas, albeit wiser and better groomed.

Vicky enthusiastically relates this odd odyssey with considerable charm and much insight. Not without edge, her barbs about the superficiality of these contests are are delivered in a gentle, but effective, manner.

Twinning dog shows and beauty contests is an interesting concept and the combination of narrating in front of the video projection - sometimes duplicating with live action what is happening on the screen - is dramatically effective in telling the tale of their journey. Regular costume changes and, of course, the occasional involvement by Tom himself make this an original one-person show and I highly recommend that you try and catch it.

It is all wonderfully, barking mad - Major Tom, you really made the grade!

Major Tom is being taken to this year’s Edinburgh Festival in August, there are also other dates arranged across the country. Vicky hopes to bring the show back to Brighton & Hove soon.

Perhaps, we could arrange a visit by the Branch to this - what about taking along a few hounds? Please email me if you might be interested.

For information about Vicky’s past and future projects visit her website: www.victoriamelody.co.uk

Vicky Melody is a South East Branch member who, with husband Mitch, owns Major Tom - many of you will know will know this handsome tricolour male hound.

Vicky’s intriguing new one-person/one-hound show, Major Tom, was staged as part of this year’s Brighton Festival in May.

A few of us from the Branch were part of a very enthusiastic audience to hear Vicky’s entertaining tale of how she and Major Tom had spent the previous year chasing success in the odd and vainglorious worlds of beauty pageants and dog shows.

Vicky introduced Major Tom who seemed totally unfazed by being centre of attention - he quickly settled down on his bed on the stage with his favourite treat while Vicky began told the story of how he was acquired from a lady in Dungeness. The Basset Hound’s ability to sleep for eighteen hours-a-day was a particularly attractive trait; plus, “He looks like an old Tory”.

Major Tom quickly fitted into his new home, but hated being left on his own, and so accompanied Vicky everywhere. They joined the South East Branch which Vicky mentions with some affection, especially our Chairman, Brian - who reminded her of a genial “retired colonel”.

They attended our Fun Day in 2010 and entered Tom into the fun classes, winning the Most Handsome Dog class and, much to Vicky’s surprise, went on to win Best in Show. A video illustrating this was projected on a screen behind Vicky as she told her story.

It was fun to watch Maureen Pearcey, the Fun Day judge (see right), and our own Jean Miller (who stewarded) discuss which hound from the line-up of class winners should win the top prize.

Fresh from this success, Vicky enters other local dog shows with equal success, but realising that Major Tom needs some serious training, she enrolls him in ringcraft classes at Handcross.

“This is run by another Brian. Everyone in the world of Basset Hounds is called Brian!”.

At this point in the show, Major Tom demonstrates what he learned - how he is ‘stacked’ and how he can ‘do a triangle’, but not before having an inordinately long drink of from his water bowl - making the audience wait, but which they found very funny.

As Major Tom comes under greater scrutiny at various shows, Vicky feels that she too should subject herself to being judged on her looks, and so enters herself into the equally weird world of beauty pageants.

She finds herself becoming ‘the project’ of all the various advisers with whom she comes in contact. She gets advice on how to walk, trains hard at a gym, and goes to beauty salon reassuringly called Turn Beautiful.

Vicky enters a competition called Mrs Brighton, and wins.

Meanwhile, suitably garbed in tweeds, she moves Major Tom up a league by entering him into Championship Dog shows with a view to qualifying for the greatest show of all - Crufts.

However, Vicky notices how unfriendly her fellow competitors are towards her. (Sadly, I think this is a too common experience for newcomers to the show scene. Competitive dog showing certainly doesn’t bring the best out of some people). Unfortunately, this coolness also coincided with the end of Tom’s winning streak. She was told he was just too big by one judge.

Undeterred, Vicky and her luckless hound toured the country, vainly trying to get a result which would open the door to Crufts.

Along with this, as Mrs Brighton, Vicky makes numerous personal appearances - some with Tom in tow.

She is accepted into the Mrs UK 2013 final, however an entry fee of several hundred pounds was needed. One of the funniest parts of the show is when Vicky hits upon a way to fund this.

A slimming club offers the similar amount she is after as a prize for the person who loses the most weight. Vicky decides to take part - but not before eating herself silly and piling on the pounds before the first weigh-in. However, while in this temporary larger state she has to attend a meeting with the other contestants in the national Mrs UK competition for a dress selection. Needless to say, her plans go a little array, and she gets beaten by another slimmer who sheds more weight.

“A piece that is both startlingly bonkers and utterly ordinary at the same time... deceptively thoughtful fun.”

The Guardian



As for Major Tom, his fortunes change as he comes before a judge who appreciates his qualities and he gains a qualification for Crufts.

Both Tom and Vicky’s beauty regimes leading up to their big contests are wittily shown in split-screen shots. The synchronised images showing work on nails, hair/fur, and general grooming are all very funny.

Then, on to the ‘big day’. At Crufts, Vicky is pleased to see ‘nice Brian’ and discovers that, due to many protest non-attendances this year, Major Tom is in a Post Graduate Dog class of only five hounds. Vicky looks down the line-up and fancies her chances.

The dream ending - Major Tom and Mrs Brighton both winning - is denied us, but the narrative is all the better for this. Vicky is beaten by an unsmiling rival, though she gets the award for the Prettiest Smile and the ‘Mrs’ who completed the most personal appearances.

The show finishes with the journey coming full-circle - or full-triangle - with the pair assuming their former personas, albeit wiser and better groomed.

Vicky enthusiastically relates this odd odyssey with considerable charm and much insight. Not without edge, her barbs about the superficiality of these contests are are delivered in a gentle, but effective, manner.

Twinning dog shows and beauty contests is an interesting concept and the combination of narrating in front of the video projection - sometimes duplicating with live action what is happening on the screen - is dramatically effective in telling the tale of their journey. Regular costume changes and, of course, the occasional involvement by Tom himself make this an original one-person show and I highly recommend that you try and catch it.

It is all wonderfully, barking mad - Major Tom, you really made the grade!

Major Tom is being taken to this year’s Edinburgh Festival in August, there are also other dates arranged across the country. Vicky hopes to bring the show back to Brighton & Hove soon.

Perhaps, we could arrange a visit by the Branch to this - what about taking along a few hounds? Please email me if you might be interested.

For information about Vicky’s past and future projects visit her website: www.victoriamelody.co.uk

first published in LOWDOWN

editor Tony Roberts