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Ben Brooker

Ben Brooker is a writer, editor, critic, playwright, essayist, and former bookseller. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Flinders University and an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing from Adelaide College of the Arts. His work has been featured by Overland, New Matilda, New Internationalist, Australian Book Review, RealTime, The Lifted Brow, Witness, and Daily Review.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (State Opera South Australia)

ABR Arts 16 November 2020
It gives some indication of the relative youth of Australian theatre that Ray Lawler, author of the watershed 1955 play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (‘The Doll’ for short), is still alive. Ninety-nine years old, he apparently even had a hand in this production, just the second staging of Richard Mills and Peter Goldsworthy’s largely faithful operatic adaptation. Premièred by Opera Victori ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Chicken: A history from farmyard to factory' by Paul R. Josephson

September 2020, no. 424 29 June 2020
Borrowing a term coined by the late Jewish Nobel Laureate and vegetarian Isaac Bashevis Singer, Charles Patterson (in)famously likened humanity’s treatment of animals to an ‘eternal Treblinka’. In his 2001 book of the same name, Patterson set the mass murder of Europe’s Jews and industrialised animal slaughter side by side, drawing a line between the production methods of Chicago’s early ... (read more)

The Plot Against America (HBO)

ABR Arts 29 April 2020
With theatres, cinemas, and concert halls shuttered worldwide due to Covid-19, the so-called ‘golden age of television’ may have just entered its platinum phase. Television production, like everything else, has been forced into hibernation or hurried workarounds, but the plethora of content on the various streaming services grows apace. Those seeking more substantial fare than Netflix’s tra ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'The Animals in That Country' by Laura Jean McKay

May 2020, no. 421 27 April 2020
Talking animals in fiction have, for the most part, been confined to children’s or otherwise peripheral literature. Yet they often serve a serious purpose. Aesop’s fables, with their anthropoid wolves, frogs, and ants, have been put to use as moral lessons for children since the Renaissance. The ‘it-narrative’, fashionable in eighteenth-century England and perhaps best exemplified by Franc ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'The Grass Library' by David Brooks

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
From the Man’s horse ‘blood[ied] from hip to shoulder’ in Banjo Paterson’s ‘The Man from Snowy River’ (1890) to the kangaroos drunkenly slaughtered in Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright (1961), non-human animals have not fared well in Australian literature. Even when, as in Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals (2014), the author’s imagination is fully brought to bear on the inner lives o ... (read more)

Light and The Dark Master (OzAsia Festival)

ABR Arts 06 November 2019
At a time of increasingly bellicose nationalism and ever-proliferating flashpoints of contested history, it’s no surprise to find multiple works at this year’s OzAsia Festival exploring, and in some cases provoking, these global fault-lines.   Light (★★☆), a collaboration between writer Thomas Henning of Melbourne’s Black Lung Theatre and Malaysian producer–designer collec ... (read more)

Hydra (State Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre)

ABR Arts 03 May 2019
There are few really good plays or films about writers. Our craft, unlike those of painters or musicians, does not seem to lend itself to the visual or aural mediums. There is nothing to look at, and much less to hear. And yet the plays and films continue to be made. Writers, and writing we suppose, are important, even if we have little idea how to make this most interior of pursuits appear intere ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Remembered Presences: Responses to theatre' by Alison Croggon

May 2019, no. 411 21 April 2019
When Alison Croggon’s theatre review blog Theatre Notes closed in late 2012 after eight years in existence, its demise was met with a response akin to grief. The first blog of its kind in Australia, and one of the most enduring anywhere, TN became essential reading for anyone interested in Australian performance. Croggon’s often expansive and always erudite critical commentary earned her an in ... (read more)

Picaresque (Adelaide Festival)

ABR Arts 14 March 2019
For the uninitiated, a maquette is an architectural miniature of a monument or building. Small, made from cardboard or wood, and often able to be flat-packed, travellers have long collected them as souvenirs of adventures to faraway places. Robyn Archer, doyenne of Australian cabaret, has amassed more than most during her forty or so years of global touring (almost always for work rather than plea ... (read more)

A Man of Good Hope (Isango Ensemble/Young Vic)

ABR Arts 08 March 2019
The Cape Town-based Isango Ensemble is known for its South African-flavoured reimaginings of works from the Western canon. While Adelaide Festival audiences thrill to Barrie Kosky’s Magic Flute, others may recall the Ensemble’s version, its setting translocated to a South African township, from the 2011 Melbourne Festival. By contrast, the music drama A Man of Good Hope draws on a contemporary ... (read more)