Quite a while ago, my friend, known to all and sundry as Auntie Squirrel, called me in a state of high excitement to insist that we immediately book tickets to see a play/performance called Hair Peace by a lady called Victoria Melody.
Squirrel had been to see her do a show called Major Tom and loved it (I suspect mainly due to the inclusion of Basset hounds in the piece. Auntie Squirrel is a huge fan of the Basset). She had no idea what Hair Peace was about, but assured me that despite this, it would be right up my street.
Last night we hurtled through the gloaming to Warwick Arts Centre to see Hair Peace, and she was spot on in her assessment. I loved it.
I shall try and describe Victoria Melody for you. She makes shows/narratives about the things that interest her. The things that interest her are the things that people are passionate about, particularly those things which are sort of dying out, or which make up you might think of as sub-cultures of society. She has, in the past for instance, done a piece about Northern Soul dancing, and pigeon racing. Major Tom was about dog shows, and beauty pageants. Hair Peace was a follow on from the beauty pageant work, in which Melody became fascinated by where all the human hair in hair extensions comes from. It is a piece in which she traces the origins of the hair that people glue to their heads, and the people who trade in it.
It sounds strange. It was strange. It was also charming and funny and at times, really touching. I found it fascinating and thought provoking.
The things she’s interested in are the sort of things that interest me. The questions she explores are the kind that flit through my own mind. It was a bit like watching part of my brain getting up and wandering onto the stage and proceed to act out my thought processes for me.
It was quite brilliant.
There is a rawness to the performance that I really liked. It was extremely human and humane. It reminded me of Daniel Kitson’s work, without the continued use of the word ‘cunt’ and the magical realism aspects. I was also reminded of the documentaries that Grayson Perry makes with this focus on what are effectively modern tribes.
When I got home I googled her work and ended up watching a short film she had made with her dad, who is an antiques dealer, about her decoration of three artist in residence rooms at Battersea Arts Centre. It really spoke to me, partly because my own parents are antiques dealers and there were a lot of similarities in the collecting/hoarding/story aspect of the pieces she’d picked, and the way she wove them into a meaningful narrative. Then there was the really poignant bit at the end where she talks about how she’s fascinated by tribes that are near extinction and how that weaves into her feelings about her dad. I was reminded of the beautiful nuances of Martin Parr and his brilliant photography in the Non Conformist’s exhibition I saw last year and how touching it was.
I cannot wait to see what she does next, and if Hair Peace is touring near you, you should check it out.