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"Some of the show might not be funny, it might instead be introspective." | Kayla MacQuarrie talks wrestling with comedy for Crossface at Vault Festival

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival.

Kayla MacQuarrie: Crossface is a character comedy performance drama wrestling with masks, identity and being fashioned by context.

When I was younger I was a fan of wrestling, then I wasn’t. Then I tried to be a writer, I didn’t. I got a film degree, tried to be a filmmaker and quit. Now I’m a fan of wrestling again and a comedian and wrestler and lots of other things. Sometimes I feel like I’ve quit more things than some people have tried and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

So with the help of a box of masks and an old speaker I’m going to wrestle with these changes. Running alongside that, I’m going to give some backstory on wrestling’s weird and oft unpleasant history.

What inspired you to write a show about identity?

The writing for this show has been a very different experience to my previous show, Traumatised. Traumatised and its core themes came about from looking at everything I was writing at that time and patiently finding a throughline. 

With this show, I was feeling more disconnected from comedy at the start of the process and felt like I needed a high concept anchor to push through with. That ended up being an exploration of different characters which lead to looking at how these characters did or didn’t reflect me.

When I think of the people I’ve known and the things that I’ve done I often feel like these different contexts have resulted in me being a different person. Crossface is, in parts, an exploration of that feeling.

How does this show blend character comedy with performance drama?

The more performance driven parts of the show are me pushing how much I can talk about something without needing a rapid fire stream of jokes. There are parts of the show that are more conversational between me and the audience and not in a crowd work way.

The phrase “character comedy performance drama” is trying to clue the audience in on the fact that some of the show might not be funny, it might instead be introspective, interrogative or pieces of storytelling, and these sections of the show aren’t necessarily me failing to be funny. (There may be parts of the show that aren’t funny because I’ve written a poor joke but I suppose that’s the nature of a work in progress.)

You’ve talked about intensely personal experiences in your act before. Can audiences expect more of that from this show?

Not to the same extent as Traumatised, which was very much a show about addressing intense experiences. In Crossface I expect the sharing of my experience will have a different mood to it, and the moments of intensity will come more through the prism of characters or storytelling.

Was it ever difficult discussing intimate topics on stage in front of strangers?

Sometimes. It will depend on the audience I have in. If I get the sense the audience have no real relationship to some of the stuff I’m talking about it can start to feel alienating.

On the other end though, if my energy on stage is off I can end up feeling like I’m not translating the topics into jokes properly which can be relatively uncomfortable. The most satisfied I was with Traumatised was when I felt an audience related to the content and connected with the humour of the material.

This is a work-in-progress show. How much do you expect it to change between the Vault Festival performance and the finished product?

I’m expecting a fair bit. This is the first work-in-progress of Crossface and thinking back to the first version of Traumatised I recall that even though the core narrative thrust of the show remained the same, a lot of the material was swapped around, tightened up or replaced. I’m looking forward to seeing how Crossface develops.

What do you hope people take away from your show?

I’m not actually sure yet. I’m enjoying the development of the show, though I suspect what aspect I end up caring most about connecting with people will become apparent during this first performance.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

I’m excited to try and catch new shows/work-in-progresses by David Ferguson, Chloe Petts and Shelf, among others.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

I’ve found that doing and seeing as much comedy as you can will ultimately make you a better comic.


Kayla is performing Crossface on 4th February.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Vault Festival here.

You can keep up with Kayla’s other work by checking out her website or following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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