Malthouse: The Book of Loco

Among walls of tape-sealed cardboard boxes stands a middle-aged man in a suit. He has a beard, an accent and looks like he’s going to sweat a lot. And he might be mad and/or mad as he’s being searched before boarding an international flight. Boom?

The Book of Loco. Photo by Pia Johnson
Photo by Pia Johnson

Aliro Zavarce’s The Book of Loco won Best Theatre Production at the 2013 Adelaide Fringe. Zavarce was born in Venezuela and moved to Adelaide in the early 90s where he studied drama at Flinders University and has become well known and rightly loved on Adelaide’s stages. The Book is an exploration of grief and madness that started when his wife left him on the September 11 2001 and his mother, in South America, became terminally ill.

He kept journals and, working with director Sasha Zahra, created a piece that looks for the lines where grief becomes identity and then moves towards something irrational, and, in turn, sees the rational madness that’s everywhere. His own pain and loss is enough to drive anyone loco but what’s the excuse of a world that so easily accepts and explains the most crazy of acts, ideas and attitudes?

The trip from the personal to the universal is made even smoother with Jonathon Oxlade’s box of boxes design that shows endless hidden and collapsing secrets, truths and lies, and Chris More’s animations and graphics that restrict themselves to the edges of the boxes and make it seem like we’re looking into the hidden space.

Zavarce is warm and delightfully affable and his story’s at its most engaging and moving when he’s talking about his personal experiences, especially the end of his marriage and being made to feel like an outsider on a flight home to Australia (in a scene that makes Steve Kilbey singing “Under the Milky Way” sound so ocker). These easy-to-connect-with moments make it easy to accept the earnest madness of explaining the rational madness of a clearly mad world.

But don’t get fooled by the earnest rants of a madman, The Book of Loco is funny and loving and ultimately lets the craziness of grief hurt a little less.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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