When I made my plans for the Fringe this year, I did not expect – nor indeed want – to emerge with an advanced knowledge of where hair extensions come from. However, thanks to Victoria Melody’s sweet and understated one-woman show, I now not only have an understanding of the subject but a new found awareness of the issues around the hair extension industry. A Fringe first for me.
Melody’s fascination with the topic arose when she competed in a beauty pageant, as part of research for her previous show, Major Tom. Her hairdresser suggested that she should don a hair piece – which led to her wondering where on earth that hair had actually come from. This one question is the thread for the whole show's storytelling, and leads us on a journey through Russia, India and Britain. Melody employs unique and memorable descriptions of the people and places she encounters, alongside real documentary footage which creates an exciting multimedia viewing experience.
The show is simplistic in its design and delivery; three television screens, a salonesque chair, and Melody (in varyingly ridiculous wigs). Melody narrates the show in a style that is both endearing and warm; her demeanour reminded me of a mildly eccentric, slightly awkward university lecturer, who has a gleeful interest in their subject and just cannot wait to share it with everyone. And this is where I feel the show holds its strength. We are charmed by Melody's slightly barmy delivery – an out-of-place Indian-styled dance routine, and the most ingenious use of a rolling chair and hair-dryer I have ever seen – and this charm is what makes the performance so compelling, and her show so interesting to watch.
But despite Melody’s best efforts to jazz up the subject, the underlying topic did not always hold my interest. I found it difficult to feel as much as I thought I should about hair extensions, particularly during the longer passages of narration. That being said, given the sensitive nature of this topic, it could easily have degenerated into a one-woman lecture on exploitation and poverty – a transgression which Melody thankfully manages to avoid.
So it's a shame that the topic Melody has chosen to delve into did not sustain my full interest – previous shows have tackled more-accessible subjects including beauty pageants and dog shows. But overall, Hair Peace is a charming journey of discovery, led by an enthusiastic, endearing and very amusing performer. Victoria Melody manages to turn an ordinary question into a vivid and artful journey.