Ouroboros is a symbol of a snake biting its own tail in order to create a circle with its own body, signifying infinity or wholeness. Charlotte Fox’s witty and darkly comic solo debut Ouroboros at the King’s Head Theatre, unmasks society’s obsession with an assumed wholeness of the self, achieved through a vicious circle of fitness mania, food rejection diets and misunderstood mindfulness on the way to success.

The actress Charlotte, played by Fox, receives another rejection for a role in a casting. Deeply frustrated and disappointed with herself, she decides to transform her body in order to be successful in the casting industry. From the International Wellbeing Convention over online counselling about food consumption to workout sessions in “Voga” – a re-working of yoga, workouts and group approval – Charlotte puts herself through a drill training of sport, no-food, drugs, as well as group obsession and hysteria. Finally, another casting offer seems to be the long-desired chance to present her whole potential.

Fox’s one-woman-show invites the audience to explore the perception of the self in relation to the idea of wholeness. A heathy and successful perceived public image can turn into a worthy self-image, yet this can also mean that value is placed solely on the body and its appearance. Charlotte’s pursuit of thinness is a cleverly constructed mirror of contemporary obsession with self-presentation, the ideal of success and the urge for approval. Fox dismantles stereotypes of hypocritical yoga gurus praying wellbeing while consuming drugs, and questions the mediated ideal of beauty and prosperity while promoting a drug culture. Furthermore, she presents the self between temptation and self-discipline – a tamed conscience – on a self-created quest for other’s approval and admiration to ‘fit in’. The image of the snake in Ouroboros is a key to perceive this urge for being whole – the cliché of being happy, successful, popular – as a standstill: self-absorption restrains the self from developing and growing to attain the full potential.

In Ouroboros Fox embodies various characters who inspire and influence Charlotte’s journey to succeed in the casting industry. The embodiment of posh agents, grounded fitness gurus and pretentious TV hosts integrates smoothly within the portrayal of Charlotte’s conscience, narcissism and self-doubt. Fox’s energy and imagination seems limitless and transforms the stage into various places and herself into multiple faces. The merge of physical theatre and dance rounds up this cabaret performance and presents Fox’ skills to entertain and immerse the audience within the storyline.

The audience is acknowledged throughout and thus takes part as crowd, dialogue partner and audition panel. Fox’ various character performances occasionally reveal her self-consciousness in order to underline the performance situation. In this way, showcasing the self in her own show becomes a witty criticism of the expectations of being a performer. This self-revelation establishes a personal connection with the audience and not only entertains them but also energises to follow Charlotte’s pathway of self-development and self-construction.

Nevertheless, the aspect of stepping in and stepping out of scenarios could be reinforced to communicate a deeper criticism. At the moment, Fox seems to rest upon the entertaining performing of stereotypes and its exaggeration to unmasks duplicity. She could go further by clashing various cliché images and by commenting on the their embodiment and expectations. Additionally, even though Fox guides the audience confidently through Charlotte’s vicious circle of self-absorption, sometimes the lines of characters become blurry. That does not happen often due to Fox’ talent as an actress and comedian but should be considered. Moreover, the use of music turns into a communication which is skilfully and convincingly executed and presents Fox’ talent as a physical performer. Nevertheless, the music sometimes overshadows her speeches.

Ouroboros is a witty and entertaining perception upon society’s obsession with the body image through the eyes of an actress on the casting battlefield. Fox presents a portfolio of skills and abilities on stage and draws the audience into the scenarios with her imagination and energy, bittersweet wit and sarcasm, and observations of her environment and herself. A well-performed and promising solo debut.

Ouroboros played at King’s Head Theatre until 8 July. It will be playing at the Camden People’s Theatre on 25 July.

Photo: Charlotte Fox