by Catherine Blanch.

Returning to Adelaide after a successful season at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre, Venezuelan-Australian Writer, Actor, Director and Storyteller Alirio Zavarce is presenting his award-winning play for six shows only at Space Theatre. Presented by Windmill Theatre, The Book Of Loco chronicles Zavarce’s real life descent into madness and back out again in side-splitting, heartbreaking detail.

Alirio has reworked The Book Of Loco especially for teenagers and their families and he shares with us the story behind his momentous journey.

“On September 11, 2001, circumstances in my life changed. My relationship with my wife ended in Melbourne, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in Venezuela and two planes crashed into The World Trade Centre in New York,” he begins. “All this happened at the same time. All that I had worked for and created disappeared so I had to start a new journey; a physical and healing journey. The whole world was collapsing around me and all I had was a notebook and a pen, so I wrote and wrote; one notebook became thirteen… And that’s where it began.

The Book of Loco is a one-man show, kind of like a battle between myself as the actor in front of an audience and ‘Loco’, or my alter ego, that believes that the world and he are one. The actor always affirms that he is ‘not mad’, while Loco always tries to bring any global evidence to demonstrate that the world is mad and therefore ‘sometimes you have to become mad to stay sane’.”

After performing this show at the Adelaide Fringe 2013 you have done a season at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. How did that go?

“It was an amazing experience,” Alirio says. “Heaps of people came to see the show, some came two and three times. A lot of people waited for me to chat after the show so we got a bit of a cult following.”

The Book of Loco is directed by Adelaide Theatre Producer Sasha Zahra and is designed by Jonathon Oxlade. The play features animations and videos by acclaimed Multimedia Artist Chris More. Hundreds of boxes are used as part of the set, so we ask Alirio what happens with all the boxes in between seasons.

“We keep the majority of them.Some are still in my house from the first season – yep, my wife is not happy about that –but all our boxes are being used in this season. Some die after each show and they are sent to recycle heaven.”

This is a very personal story for you. Although you have been touring it for a while, was it initially hard to write this story – let alone share it on stage – or was it more of a cathartic thing for you to do?

“Writing helped me focus on something positive and use my pain, my experiences to create art. Pain has to have a bit of currency, right?” Alirio says. “At the time I felt that I really could not talk to anyone about what was happening to me so I just wrote it out from the very first moment. When I wrote the title of the show in the first notebook I was speaking to an audience, I was writing to unknown friends that sit in a theatre and will listen to this story.

“A quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the self-imposed rules from the shaping of the material: ‘If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own’.

“Therefore I could only write about things that I have lived and experienced. I could only write from my perspective. That is the reason behind the use of biographical material: my perspective has been shaped by my own personal experiences and in time has created my knowledge. The Book Of Loco is my take on madness, a madness we all live and it seems like normality. The centrepiece of which is my theory of ‘Rational Madness’. If I share my perspective with you, you may see things from my unique point of view and we may be able to learn something about each other and our world.”

The Book Of Loco is now aimed toward teenagers. What brought you to do this and how did your teenage audience members react to this new version?

“During the Fringe and at the Malthouse Theatre we had amazing school audiences, so Rose Myers, the Director of Windmill, approached me about doing a season for young people and I loved the idea.

“It is fascinating how young audiences engage with the show,” he says. “And it’s great to challenge certain ‘collective perspectives’. Like, say, on certain political policies or advertising or how the media treats us. I really enjoy unpacking that with them. Some of the young audiences were born after 9/11 so they do not know how these events changed our world.”

What is it that you hope audiences, which include many school groups, get from seeing Loco?

“I hope they can get that regardless of the destruction and chaos in the world there is also so much hope, beauty and strength in the human race. We can create and rebuild or we can choose to destroy.

The Book Of Loco is like a survival guide, and Loco’s mission is to help the audience deal with destruction and loss. But as a good story to tell there are fun things, surprises, funny moments and touching things and of course a bit of madness.”

Are there any moments within the show that mean the most to you, or that give you a reaction inside yourself that audiences may not be aware of?

“I love surprising the audience,” Alirio says. “I want to take them on a journey where they can laugh, cry, think, reflect and question the world. It is an intrinsic part of the work that our experience depends on our perspectives and that those experiences are all unique but at the same time we are all human and we all feel pain, loss, fear, hope and love. So, I love talking to the audience after the show and discovering what their experience was.”

Alirio Zavarce performs The Book Of Loco at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times on Fri 14 Aug until Sat 22 Aug.

Book at BASS on 131 246 or Click HERE to purchase your tickets.

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