Hair Peace: getting to the root of the story

Christian Butler

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Victoria Melody’s one-woman shows are reminiscent of participatory documentaries. She immerses herself in unusual situations in real life, and then relays her discoveries to her audience. Her previous shows have been based on her experiences becoming a championship dog handler, a pigeon racer and a Northern Soul dancer.

Her new show, Hair Peace, is inspired by a previous show-cum-investigation in which she became a beauty-pageant queen. Intrigued by the hair extensions she had to wear in the competition, Melody’s new show uses DNA testing to attempt to track down the people who donated their hair for her extensions.

The central insight of the show is that the people whose hair is used for extensions are often completely unaware of it. For example, in Hindu temples in India, as part of the practice known as tonsure, followers queue for days on end to have their hair shaved as a symbolic offering to the gods. What they don’t know is that the temples then sell the hair on.

Melody travelled to India and Russia as part of her research, and the show features footage of the people she met on her travels. Constantly changing wigs as she goes, Melody tells her story free of bias and with a faux naïveté, allowing the people in the audience to make up their own minds about what she’s discovered.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

Hair Peace is at the Pleasance Courtyard until 31 August.

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