Beauty pageants and dog shows are traditionally a rich breeding ground for comedy and satire, from Best in Show to Little Miss Sunshine. Major Tom weaves both subjects together to create a tale that is both life affirming and an effective indictment of our modern, image-obsessed society.
The starting point for performer Victoria Melody’s real-life drama—told using a combination of monologue and video—concerns the story’s eponymous hero; namely her lazy and loveable basset hound Tom.
Early success in provincial dog shows sees her dream of entering the prize pooch into Crufts, only for those lofty hopes to be initially dashed by the insular world of pedigree and breeding.
This doggy glass ceiling frustrates the down-to-earth Melody, who initially tries to change herself to fit into the alien Kennel Club environment. Further failure sees her decide to mirror Tom’s struggles by entering the Mrs UK beauty pageant.
The progress of human and canine through their respective challenges provides the comedic heart of the show, as bodies are waxed, coats made glossy and weight lost. A nail-biting finish reveals the ultimate winners and losers.
Melody is a charming performer who shows a rare talent for comic turns of phrase throughout. Self-effacing to a fault, she is happy to share the most intimate details of her journey, as Tom obliviously sleeps stage left. The commonality between the two forms of competition is constantly alluded to but never becomes preachy – providing a satisfyingly hard centre to the frothy and funny presentation.