Charlotte Fox’s one-woman show is a kaleidoscopic medley, parodying the relentless imagery of fitness-freak culture. Fox’s performance relishes in the modern grotesque – placing egomaniac gym bunnies, Instagram influencers, and motivational speakers directly in the firing line. Playing herself, Fox contorts, spasms, and cartwheels her body to great effect as she multi-roles a sequence of characters that are well realised and often hilarious.
The opening scene introduces the audience to the play’s antagonist: a cake. Charlotte desires this cake, but advice (much of it aggressive and entirely irresponsible) from her peers in the entertainment industry recommends otherwise. In Ouroboros, the audience are not bystanders. Fox interacts with audience members from the offset. Although this initially struck terror into the hearts of everyone in the front row, Fox hosts audience members adeptly and compassionately – no one is ridiculed except herself (and all of consumer society).
Ouroboros is a loud and vibrant show. Fox plays an enormous cast of psychologically dangerous and unhinged characters, and each one is clearly defined and could never be mistaken or confused for someone else. Fox’s use of props immediately signifies where a scene takes place. Amidst the rampancy of the performance, there is a precise and well – directed structure which ensures the societal showcase treads intelligently around the madness on display.
The titular reference – a serpent from Norse mythology that rings the world and is depicted eating its own tail – is a relevant and well-chosen image. Fox positions the desire to self-improve as an infinite and relentless cycle that can only end in collapse. Regularly, Charlotte gets close to attaining what she wants, only to be reduced to rubble as soon as it is in reach. Instagram feeds, self-improvement classes and the personalities of mentors are insidious and territorial.
Some of the scenes progress the narrative, and some feel more like isolated sketches that complement the theme of the show. Some of the character-caricatures also land more effectively than others. A table-read scene, which explores Charlotte’s preparation for an audition, is a delight and leaves the audience cackling. A new kind of yoga class introduces a hyper – demanding and frenetic training coach, who dances faster than anyone can hope to keep up. Some of these showcases feel extended and could be shortened; however, all of Fox’s characters represent neuroses that can easily be perceived in real life.
The mischievousness of Fox’s performance is persuasive. Fox’s presence is muscular, powerful, and slightly goofy. Some moments of angst and agony feel exaggerated, but these are important cornerstones in allowing the audience to perceive Charlotte’s besieged mindset. The cake, of course, is not the real antagonist – it’s just a cake. A tyrannical insistence upon perfection is the force which causes Charlotte’s world to explode. Ouroboros is a commanding and bombastic show, which demands attention that the audience are very happy to give.
Ouroboros is playing at Underbelly (Cowgate) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe until 14 August
Photo: Charlotte Fox