Theatre review: Model Behaviour, theSpace @ Jury’s Inn

Talking from personal experience, Issy Knowles illustrates the contradictions of the fashion industry with wit and verve. Picture: Contributed
Talking from personal experience, Issy Knowles illustrates the contradictions of the fashion industry with wit and verve. Picture: Contributed
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“Every 15-year-old girl should be told by a middle-aged man that her flat chest is beautiful.” In a few words, writer/performer Issy Knowles sums up all that’s wrong with the modelling industry.

Model Behaviour, theSpace @ Jury’s Inn (Venue 260) ****

And so, the previously nervous chuckles of the audience, underpinned by clear awkwardness at being in the same room as someone so good looking, gives way to genuine laughter.

As a former model, Knowles clearly knows what it’s like.

While the world of castings, fashion parties and photoshoots may be familiar to anyone who’s ever picked up Vogue, the wit and verve with which she sums up the power imbalances that exist between the young women and the industry professionals who police their every word/look/mouthful of food is sharp and fresh, with jokes as funny and skilfully structured as many of the top stand-up comedians you’ll see at the Fringe.

Rachael Head’s engaging direction finds physical humour in the hidden world between the poses, while, in the audience, the continual flash of a camera whirrs away.

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With the underlying threat of being “dropped” unless she “lands” London fashion week, Knowles’ likeable, upbeat and clown-like character finds a photoshoot with a revered male photographer is not what it is built up to be.

Through turning her body into a sexualised object, our formidably astute narrator strips away the comic voice we have come to so enjoy in the same dehumanising way that she depicts this man and, indeed, the wider fashion industry, as doing.

It’s an uncomfortable but highly effective sequence – one that undercuts the comedy and elevates what is an already extremely enjoyable piece into something much more thought-provoking, powerful and, in the current climate, ultimately extremely pertinent.

• Until 11 August, 8:20pm