Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Hair Peace, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Sally Stott.
“It’s just like wearing another woman’s knickers that have been washed.” That’s how hair extensions are described at the start of Victoria Melody’s one-woman show in which she attempts to trace the origins of the three disembodied “ponytails” of human hair she used for her previous piece about becoming a beauty queen, Major Tom. While her cousin, Beverley (“the core market”), talks on film about wearing extensions to feel youthful and glamorous, a woman Victoria meets in India, Neeharika, prepares to have her head shaved as part of a Hindu ritual – a process that provides a lot of the hair in extensions (which are often sold without the women receiving any of the money).
Though a journey that also takes her to Russia, where some of the most expensive hair comes from, Victoria exposes the shady underworld of men who sell women’s hair – including that of prisoners and the dead – through her deliberately uncomfortable style of comedy, but also highlights a woman’s right to do what she wants with her hair if she’s genuinely free to choose. However, it’s telling we don’t meet any men selling a part of their body to make ends meet or to rid themselves of their “vanity”: they seem to be too busy shearing women’s heads and collecting the money.
The final scene in which we, and Beverley, watch filmed footage of Neeharika, crying while having her hair shaved, is initially horrifying. However, she later explains her tears were due to the “big moment” and talks about feeling more confident with her now-grown-back short hair. Ironically Beverley, visibly uncomfortable without her extensions in, says a longer style makes her feel more like “herself”. Everyone’s happy, right? Maybe, but a world in which women are both defined by and gain their confidence from their hair feels a sad place.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 27 August 2015
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