Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Reviews Dyman Associates Publishing Inc: The Book of Loco, Malthouse Theatre

Alirio Zavarce’s one-man show on the nature of something he’s termed “rational madness” begins in an airport. He’s just flown back to Australia with a prop suitcase, and as the story reaches fever pitch, with the federal police brandishing machine guns and a gaggle of customs officials staring him down suspiciously, he stops the show.

He’s troubled. There’s a divide between Zavarce the man and Zavarce the actor. Maybe that’s the wrong place to begin. Things carry on, but it’s not the last time he’ll stop the show. Loco is peppered with Zavarce’s asides, and the whole thing proceeds in kooky fits and starts.

Jonathon Oxlade’s enchanting set — a towering wall of cardboard boxes — becomes a playground. Sections fall down, some of them contain secrets, and more than a few become the canvas for Chris More’s projection design.

Zavarce’s marriage and the twin towers of the World Trade Centre collapsed on the same day, and this is where his “rational madness” began. Everyone’s a little bit loco, and sometimes we have to give in to it in order to get through. He’s a beguiling, fascinating performer who’s at his best engaging directly with the audience.

Sasha Zahra’s direction is solid, but there’s a gap between the darkness and the light in these stories. These semi-autobiographical tales are told mostly in big print, and the net effect is beautifully polished, but fundamentally shallow.

Like The Rabble’s Room of Regret last year, this show features a plate of human faeces. But it’s there to do more than just shock: it’s glad wrapped, and it’s a prop in a didactic little bit about the value of things. And just like the poo, everything from David Gadsden’s manic lighting to Duncan Campbell’s sound design — which features a mind-bending mashup of Glenn Miller’s In the Mood and Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of — is perfectly calibrated.

Ultimately, all the mess and madness is a little too choreographed; the version of himself Zavarce presents here is a few clicks too close to children’s television presenter to really connect with, but maybe that’s the point.

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