The Book of Loco

Adelaide Fringe. Alirio Zavarce and Sasha Zahra. Loose Canon Art Services. Tandanya. 24 Feb 2013

Why are we sitting in what is either a lecture theatre or an airport waiting room? Why are we surrounded on three sides by boxes stacked from floor to ceiling? Why is a pre-recorded voice droning on, “In case of emergency . . . be vigilant”? And why is there a man in a dark suit roaming around the seats looking anxious?

The Book of Loco, currently having its world premiere season at the 2013 Adelaide Fringe, is an alarming, insightful, multi layered piece of political theatre that Augusto Boal, the Brazilian playwright and director of political protest theatre, would be well pleased with.

The remarkable Venezuelan born, now Adelaide based, Alirio Zavarce (writer and performer) has devised a dynamic theatrical journey for an unsuspecting audience. A very personal journey through airport security, terrorism, the ever shifting world of political and social points of view, cultural differences, and the terror of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Zavarce, in a cross between lecture and improvised performance and a stunning montage of pre-recorded sound, large and small visual projections on the cardboard boxes, a multitude of throw away combs, hand props, and a broad expanse storyline, leads the audience on a journey that is very personal (for him), very confronting (for us), and very smooth in its transition between private realities and public realities (for the actor, for the character, and for the audience).

And the boxes? Used with theatrical brilliance, the 1800 boxes of the ‘box set’ not only create the walls of the performance space but serve as visual projection surfaces, as containers, and as metaphors. After one spectacular, truly mind blowing theatrical device, a second wall of boxes is revealed, and the real performance venue wall beyond this, adding up to a complex and evocative presentation of the constant shifting of realities for everyone living at the start of the 21st century.

“I am not mad! I am an actor! How much is a fresh plate of dog shit worth? In an emergency, what would you do? Welcome home”. All seem innocuous words on the page but in the hands of the agile and always in-the-moment Zavarce, they become chilling statements or codes for things we do not want to face, or want to face but are afraid to. Zavarce’s vulnerability gives us courage to look into the darkness of our own lives.

Sasha Zahra and the production team, on the performance side, have done a smooth job in bringing together the disparate elements of the storyline and I suspect keeping Zavarce from going too far over the top during the shared developmental journey.

If I were to criticise the production, it would be to ask the question: When has a production made its point? The Book of Loco has one, two, or three false endings too many in my opinion. This drags out the final scene unnecessarily. Some editing of material through this seventy-five minute production would also benefit this show.

That aside, The Book of Loco must be one of the finest theatrical events of this year’s Fringe.

Martin Christmas

When: 21 Feb to 10 March
Where: Tandanya