Major Tom[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)

SPOILER ALERT: the namesake of this show is a bassett hound who’s on stage alongside Victoria Melody. He doesn’t do much but he’s gorgeous. So if you are mortally terrified of dogs you should either give this show a miss or use it as an opportunity to break through your fears. (Seriously, he doesn’t do much. He just sits there sleeping.) Major Tom is the real-life pet of Melody, whose trials and tribulations in local dog shows form the basis of Major Tom.

Half lecture and half docudrama, Major Tom is about failure and fitting in. Melody entered herself into a beauty pageant while submitting Major Tom for dog shows. Her footage and analysis of the experiences makes a wry statement about the pageantry industry and, on a larger level, the social expectations on women to adhere to an unrealistic standard of beauty. Melody is charming and funny in her delivery, and there’s something incredibly soothing about what is essentially story-telling. She juxtaposes the scrutiny that Major Tom faced in dog trials with the obnoxious body regulation of the beauty pageant in such a light-hearted manner that you feel uplifted at its conclusion, rather than defeated by how terrible the world is.

A lovely aspect of the show is Melody’s obvious basis in normality. We see videos of her walking Major Tom through Brighton; we hear her refer to her husband’s opinions of her antics in the pageant, which are amusing and sweet. The entire show is so saccharine and good-humoured that the ugliness behind what she is saying about pageant culture and dog shows becomes more pronounced. Although she is not saying anything new or revealing undisclosed information about the pageant circuit, her observations are cutting, amiable and intelligent.

Major Tom is a wry, engrossing and memorable affair, but it’s a shame that there are no answers offered, or conclusions made. It is, so to speak, all bark and no bite. So rather than postulating on the wrongs of beauty standards, the show culminates very simply in a renewed appreciation of dog for owner and owner for dog. Two kind-hearted failures together. But that is enough. (As long as you aren’t mortally afraid of dogs.)

Major Tom is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe until 26th August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.