Model Behaviour: A dark one woman comedy about the modelling industry

Issy Knowles’ show Model Behaviour has just sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe. David Walliams thinks she’s pretty great, as does Fleabag. Here is her tell-all, featuring her burping her way to success on stage.

Firstly, could you tell us in only 10 WORDS about your show?

It’s a dark one woman comedy about the modelling industry.

Now is your chance to expand with a more in depth description…

At its bones Model Behaviour is ultimately a play about not feeling good enough. I wrote it out of a desire to have my say after spending five years working as a model and feeling completely voiceless. I wanted to hold the industry that had treated my friends and I like we were disposable accountable. It’s a very personal piece but it isn’t autobiographical. The character is fictitious which gave me much more freedom when it came to writing Model Behaviour. In all honesty I had no idea it was a comedy until I wrote a few paragraphs and my cousin read it and laughed hysterically. Then I was like oh, I guess I can work with that.

How did you begin?

Model Behaviour began when I was training with National Youth Theatre last year. I’d made a wonderful new group of friends who were all fascinated by the fact I’d modelled in the past but that quickly turned to horror when I filled them in on the realties of life in the industry. A few weeks later I was talking to my friend Shayla about how I’d started a million plays and never finished one and she simply said ‘I think you should write a play about modelling.’ And that’s how it began. I don’t think I realised how much I had to say until it began writing itself. It felt so effortless and really cathartic. I feel like through writing this play I’ve managed to let go of that part of my past and make peace with it, even laugh at it.

Who inspired and motivated you?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is at the top on my inspirations list. The truthful female narrative she’s created through Fleabag has finally given an angry passionate generation of women a voice. I don’t think I truly understood the meaning of an anti-heroine until Fleabag was introduced to my life. What’s so inspiring about the character is how imperfect she is, no one wants to be like Fleabag REALLY, not if they can help it.

And yet she’s managed to touch so many women and men. It makes me think that human beings are more likely to relate to someone through their failures than their successes; you can see the humanity in someone much more easily if they’re being a class A twat than a martyr. I actually ran into her on the tube a year ago and almost fainted on her. I sent her a handmade card that looked like I’d drawn it in the dark and she slid into my DMs and sent me back the most beautiful reply. I printed it off and stuck it to my wall. In the message she says I write beautifully and should pursue that, so maybe that was the motivation too?

How has your work developed overtime?

I’ve been lucky enough to have the wonderful director/producer that is Rachael Head working with me and conjuring her magic nonstop. She is completely invaluable. The most interesting aspect of watching someone add their own interpretation and direction to your work for me was watching Rachael find humour in my writing that I didn’t intend. Rehearsals were so much fun and we always knew we’d struck gold if Rachael suggested something and we literally couldn’t get through the line without laughing. The writing itself underwent minimal changes, but the play with her direction has grown into this amazing piece of theatre that we’re really proud of. I can’t quite believe that at it’s core is something I’ve written.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Getting a glowing 4* review from The Scotsman. I know how much weight they carry and reading such a lovely write up meant the world to me. That evening I walked into a corner shop on The Royal Mile and purchased a national newspaper that contained a 4* review of my work. I think no matter what happens now with my career I will always have that moment.

…and your biggest (silliest) embarrassment?

For a few nights on the trot I literally couldn’t stop burping on stage. Just like little burps but really audible and very obviously burps. It’s a pretty difficult thing to try and hide when you’re the only person onstage and the only person speaking for 50 minutes. After a couple of nights I realised it was possibly due to the final few minutes before my curtain call that I devote to hyperventilating. I learnt to burp myself before going onstage for the last few nights of the run.

The second would probably be my mum buying me t-shirts with massive pictures of my posters on. So every day I stood on the mile shouting about how great my play was handing out pictures of my face while wearing a picture of my face. The best day was when I ran into a girl I knew from primary school who’s now got a proper grown-up job and is an actual adult.

How do you hope Model Behaviour will evolve in the future?

It would be great to keep developing it, we’re currently in talks with a few London theatres and are looking for a home for Model Behaviour. There’s so much we could do with a more sophisticated tech board and there’s more left to be explored and developed in the writing for me. I hope Rachael and I will get to continue working on the play. We want to take it as far as humanely possible, in whichever direction that may be.

Follow Model Behaviour on Instagram: @modelbehaviourplay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *