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.

‘Girls & Boys’: Speechifying violence in Dennis Kelly’s one-woman show

ABR Arts 03 March 2022
‘Girls & Boys’: Speechifying violence in Dennis Kelly’s one-woman show
I’ve never cared much for first-person direct address monologues in the theatre. Too often, one feels talked at rather than implicated in the action, the interpersonal dynamics of multi-actor drama shorn away in favour of a kind of speechifying. British playwright Dennis Kelly’s Girls & Boys – the ampersand seems to be official – is one such monologue. ‘Woman’ (Kelly doesn’t giv ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'This Is Your Mind on Plants' by Michael Pollan

September 2021, no. 435 23 August 2021
Ben Brooker reviews 'This Is Your Mind on Plants' by Michael Pollan
At sixty-six years of age and best known for his books on the sociology of food, the American author and journalist Michael Pollan has become an unlikely figurehead for the so-called ‘psychedelic renaissance’. In How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan surveyed the recent revival of psychedelic drugs as adjuncts to psychotherapy, and the emerging evidence that supports their use in the treatmen ... (read more)

'Hibernation': A futuristic odyssey that strains credulity

ABR Arts 19 August 2021
'Hibernation': A futuristic odyssey that strains credulity
About fifteen years ago, a group of British playwrights, disheartened by what they saw as a lack of ambition and scale in new plays, started a movement they dubbed ‘monsterism’. Their manifesto called for large-scale work with big casts and ideas in contrast with the two- and four-handed studio theatre plays proliferating in an atmosphere of economic and intellectual austerity. Watching Hibern ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Animal Dreams' by David Brooks

June 2021, no. 432 27 May 2021
Ben Brooker reviews 'Animal Dreams' by David Brooks
Four kangaroos recently moved into the paddock that adjoins the house on Peramangk Country in the Adelaide Hills where I live. For weeks I had been conscious of distant gunfire, not the usual firing of the gas guns that wineries use to keep birds off their vines. I concluded that the kangaroos had been driven here by a cull. The goats, Charles and Hamlet, and the sheep, Lauren and Ingrid, who call ... (read more)

Medea | Adelaide Festival

ABR Arts 09 March 2021
Medea | Adelaide Festival
In her essay on Akon Guode, the thirty-five-year-old South Sudanese refugee who drowned three of her seven children in April 2015, Helen Garner recalls striking up a conversation with a VCE student about Euripides’ Medea. Garner tells the student, ‘She did a terrible, terrible thing. But she was very badly treated. She was betrayed.’ Before she can go on, the student interrupts her, flu ... (read more)

'The Boy Who Talked to Dogs' | Adelaide Festival

ABR Arts 01 March 2021
'The Boy Who Talked to Dogs' | Adelaide Festival
There is, somewhat surprisingly, a German connection in the otherwise resoundingly Irish The Boy Who Talked to Dogs, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Slingsby Theatre Company co-production based on Martin McKenna’s memoir about his hardscrabble childhood in 1970s Garryowen. In both the book and the play, adapted by Irish playwright Amy Conroy, we encounter Martin (Bryan Burroughs ... (read more)

'A German Life' | Adelaide Festival

ABR Arts 01 March 2021
'A German Life' | Adelaide Festival
Who in their right mind would want to be running an international arts festival right now? Two months ago I was slated to review four Adelaide Festival shows for this publication. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, two were subsequently cancelled, including Anna Breckon and Nat Randall’s highly anticipated Set Piece. Co-artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy must have been harried d ... (read more)

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (State Opera South Australia)

ABR Arts 16 November 2020
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (State Opera South Australia)
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
Ben Brooker reviews 'Chicken: A history from farmyard to factory' by Paul R. Josephson
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
The Plot Against America (HBO)
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)
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