Plague Stone Party on queer paganism & Farewell, Tor

Plague Stone Party (aka Ozzy Algar and Buoys Buoys Buoys) are bringing their ‘freak folk comedy’ Farewell, Tor to the Fringe. We talk to them about the show and the growing niche of queer paganism

Article by Zinzi Buchanan | 09 Aug 2023
  • Plague Stone Party

The Skinny: I read that plague stones are places where people with the plague and outcast from society would congregate. Can you tell me why you chose this for your name?

Buoys Buoys Buoys: We chose it because it encapsulates the irony of a place of desperation and hope. And we love the idea of going there just to have a great big party. Growing up in Swansea, you'd always be going out to ancient sites and having parties. It was completely normal back then. But in hindsight, it's such a fascinating combination – raves around Neolithic burial sites.

Ozzy Algar: Yeah, one of the most easily recognisable features of Celtic, Pagan and Druidic culture is people partying at Stonehenge and partying in ancient places is something that on a deeper level still makes total sense to people. A plague stone was a place where you went to try and heal yourself when disease was rife. And something of this image really captured me – of people from all over history and now needing that place of healing.

Absolutely. It makes me think about gathering on the dance floor as a popular queer ritual. But there's something missing there, don’t you think?

O: It’s perhaps the difference between pleasure and delight. But I think investing in both is important in resisting the machine that really wants you to not have either. In the show it's the rave stuff that’s more about pleasure, but telling little stories with jokes is just such a delight.

How do you connect existing as queer to Celtic and folkloric traditions?

B: The connection I find in my mind is there's nothing clear about folklore. It's the facets of anti-establishment mentality, carnivalesque presence and alternative means of recording stories. Folk traditions not existing as a single doctrine has space inside for many experiences to happen (like queerness!)

What got your hearts beating to make this show?

O: A major part of it is just we were so excited to work together.

B: Yes! We have a shared passion for making something magical happen, which links so powerfully to folk performances and storytelling, parades and carnivals, which come into your life and community, and then vanish again. But it's the vanishing that makes the presence a lot sweeter.

Two figures in long white outfits standing in a field of white flowers and grass.
Ozzy Algar (left) and Buoys Buoys Buoys (right). Photo courtesy of Plague Stone Party

I love that. The eclectic mix of genres that you bring together to make the show leave me unable to predict what to expect. Is there any moment, atmosphere or aesthetic, you would be willing to reveal pre-show?

B: Yes! How much do we give away? How sneaky do we be?

O: We're trying to create an atmosphere of two strangers meeting and bonding over a shared love of folktales with humour, fear and hope. The narrative of this show is based on the Irish myth of Morrigan, who is the goddess of the Other World. She lives in the Cave of the Cats in County Roscommon, which is a real cave – a Hellmouth. The story goes that if you go to the cave and spend three days and three nights there, you leave having absolved your past and able to fulfill your destiny. And we thought it would be really funny if two people accidentally showed up in the cave at the same time…

Thank you for sharing that. What a gift! Could you say a little bit more about comedy and what it brings to your lives?

O: I mean, on a factual level, I went to clown school. I became more serious about myself as an actor and performer there. Comedy for me is about sharing a moment with someone that brings something out of them. And I just think we're the funniest people in the freaking world.

B: We are so funny! We're both trying to work against the idea that comedy is an utter frivolity. If something isn't necessary in the world, it will just stop being and comedy will never stop being. Our show has elements of tragedy as well as comedy and I don't think we could have one without the other.

I agree! Is there anything you’d like to say before you come to Edinburgh – to the people, the hills or to your future selves?

O: If you see the tag 'queer' or 'LGBT+' on a show, and you're not a fan of cabaret or drag don't assume that you won't like it because it could be like this show we saw last year called The Stones. It was one man sitting in a chair telling a queer horror story. There was no set, nothing! He was just sitting in a chair telling the story and it was so evocative and amazing.

B: Hmmm, something to say to our future selves: stretch, do vocal warm ups, stay hydrated.

Yeah! Take care of yourselves! I look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh on 18 August. It’s been delightful talking to you both!

Plague Stone Party, Fforest Gather festival in the Teifi valley in West Wales, 31 Jul-6 Aug; Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham, 15 Aug; Blundagardens (Spiegelyurt), Edinburgh, 18-22 Aug, 8pm

This article was produced as part of Diverse Critics, a talent development programme for disabled and/or Black and people of colour arts writers delivered in partnership between Disability Arts Online and The Skinny and supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland