The Book of Loco

The Book of Loco_reviewAt the centre of the one-man play The Book of Loco is the question of madness in an insane world. If the world is crazy, and surely nobody would deny it is, then isn’t sanity the irrational option? Aren’t we better off embracing madness as the soundest possible response to our unsound environment?

Alirio Zavarce has brought his play to the Malthouse after winning Best Production at last year’s Adelaide Fringe, and it fits neatly into the Beckett theatre. Adopting a frenetic playing style, and bounding about the cleverly designed space, Zavarce brings to mind a slightly deranged James Coco, alternatively ferocious and hangdog.

Opening with an hilarious anecdote about a security incident with his luggage at an airport, and closing with a similar but far more sombre one at another, Zavarce unpacks his personal life to construct this show. The break-up of his marriage, the death of his mother, his feelings of statelessness, all provide the raw material for his work, and the effect is charmingly intimate and often quite moving.

There is a welcome and entertaining sense of play at work, here. Zavarce is expert at shifts in tone and rhythm, employing repetition to brilliant effect. Every story is interrupted, every line of inquiry is broken and reconstructed. It creates a textual layering that serves to undermine as well as reiterate, and occasionally reaches dazzling heights.

Less effective is Zavarce’s overtly political tirades, which meander over such disparate topics as 9/11 and refugee policy. Delivered as soapbox rants, they jar with the confessional tone of the rest, and come too close to lecture. It’s an incredibly personal story, and would have been better served with a tighter focus.

The Book of Loco is incredibly well served by the lighting [David Gasden] and set [Jonathon Oxlade] design, adding a genuine sense of drama to proceedings. Sasha Zahra’s direction is also first rate. This is the kind of show you will kick yourself for missing, touching and hard-earned.

Director: Sasha Zahra  Featuring: Alirio Zavarce  Set and Costume Design: Jonathon Oxlade  Video/Graphics: Chris More  Composition: Duncan Campbell  Lighting Realisation: Neil Jensen from original design by David Gasden  Producer: Janine Peacock, Loose Canon Art Services  Artist’s Associate: Bradley Williams  Production Manager: Neil Jensen

The Book of Loco
Beckett Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season continues to 2 August 2014
Bookings: (03) 9685 5111 or online at:

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Alirio Zavarce in The Book of Loco – photo by Pia Johnson

Review: Tim Byrne