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Ben Brooker

Ben Brooker is a writer, editor, critic, playwright, essayist, and 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.

Ben Brooker reviews ‘Life As We Knew It: The extraordinary story of Australia’s pandemic’ by Aisha Dow and Melissa Cunningham

January-February 2024, no. 461 18 December 2023
In October 2014, an article by health reporter Aisha Dow appeared in Melbourne’s Age newspaper titled ‘Deadly flu pandemic could shut down Melbourne’. It began with a dystopian vision of Australia’s second most populous city plunged into a Spanish flu-like crisis: A deadly pandemic could shut down Melbourne as we know it. Public transport could be terminated, AFL games cancelled and the ... (read more)

'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: A traditional version of Edward Albee’s classic' by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 20 November 2023
Since its sensational début on Broadway more than sixty years ago, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has become an enduring classic of the modern American canon. Its depiction of warring middle-aged couple Martha and George, and their drawing of young couple Honey and Nick into the gravitational field of the savage, alcohol-fuelled contretemps their marriage has become, remains a ... (read more)

'Flake: Dan Lee's dark and comic Hanoi play' by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 25 October 2023
Dan Lee’s first play, Bottomless, premièred at fortyfivedownstairs in 2018 after receiving the last R.E. Ross Trust award four years previously. Critics drew attention to the unusually star-studded cast for a début – Mark Coles Smith, Julie Forsyth, Jim Daly, Alex Menglet, Uncle Jack Charles – but its depiction of the residents of a dry-out facility in Broome garnered a mixed reception. Th ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Psychonauts: Drugs and the making of the modern mind' by Mike Jay

September 2023, no. 457 25 July 2023
In his 1927 essay ‘On Being One’s Own Rabbit’, the British-Indian scientist and writer J.B.S. Haldane surveyed the history of an enduring but contentious approach to scientific discovery: self-experimentation. At the age of eight, Haldane tested poison gases on himself in his scientist father’s home laboratory. As an adult, among other self-experiments occasioning losses of consciousness f ... (read more)

'Far Away: Caryl Churchill’s play about power' by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 17 July 2023
Now an octogenarian, and with more than thirty plays to her name, Caryl Churchill must be the English-speaking theatre’s nearest equivalent to a rock star of a certain age. It’s no exaggeration to say that without her plays – which, like Samuel Beckett’s, have become increasingly spare and crystalline over time, some running to as little as ten minutes – it would be hard to imagine the e ... (read more)

'Worstward Ho: Late Beckett at Theatreworks' by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 26 May 2023
It is a curious fact that perhaps the most famous lines in all of Beckett are contained in one of his least-known works, the 1983 prose piece Worstward Ho. ‘All before. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ These words, the ne plus ultra of Beckettian endurance in the face of existential adversity, have entered the culture in a way individu ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Dark Winter: An insider’s guide to pandemics and biosecurity' by Raina MacIntyre

June 2023, no. 454 24 May 2023
In the months leading up to the 2022 federal election, as the two major parties duked it out over the cost of living, integrity, and the climate crisis, one issue barely rated a mention amid the barrage of leaders’ debates, press conferences, and doorstops: the Covid-19 pandemic. Having raged in Australia for more than two years, resulting in once-in-a-generation disruption to daily life, includ ... (read more)

'Loaded: Christos Tsiolkas’s novel finally comes to the stage' by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 15 May 2023
Christos Tsiolkas’s début novel Loaded (1995), the story of a single, debauched night in the life of nineteen-year-old Greek-Australian queer man, Ari, is no stranger to being given fresh life in new mediums. In 1998, it served as the basis for the film Head On, a breakthrough for director Ana Kokkinos and star Alex Dimitriades, even as its sexual explicitness proved controversial. A new stage ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Abandon Every Hope' by Hayley Singer

March 2023, no. 451 26 February 2023
There is a slaughterhouse-like logic to the way humanity’s mistreatment of animals tends to be written about. Repetitive. Relentless. Atrocity piles upon atrocity, with no hope of remedy. Readers, probably appalled by the abattoir to begin with, likely vegetarians or vegans or animal fosterers, discomfort themselves yet again in the name of … what exactly? Duty? Academic interest? A renewed se ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'An Eye for Talent: A life at NIDA' by John Clark

December 2022, no. 449 25 October 2022
Theatre director John Clark’s close namesake John Clarke, in character as that infamous Kiwi schlep Fred Dagg, once averred that autobiography is a highly recommended form of leisure activity, as it takes up large chunks of time and if you’re a slow writer or you think particularly highly of yourself, you can probably whistle away a year or two … It’s not a difficult business and rememb ... (read more)