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Ben Brooker

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:

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To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, television, music, operas, dance, and exhibitions, we invited a number of arts professionals and critics to nominate their favourites.  

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

Red Stitch Actors' Theatre
by
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 perennial favourite of the English-speaking theatre. Like moths, actors of a certain vintage are drawn to its bright flame, which shone never more brightly than in the superlative 1966 film adaptation directed by Mike Nichols, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the starring roles.

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Flake 

Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
by
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. The effect of Lee’s writing, wrote Tim Byrne typically, ‘may be unwieldy and overstuffed, but at least it feels rich. At least it has ambition.’ 

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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 from ‘blows on the head, from fever, anaesthetics, want of oxygen and other causes’, he once induced sufficiently high levels of oxygen saturation to suffer a violent seizure and the crushing of several vertebrae. 

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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, including the world’s longest lockdown, the virus had become all but untouchable on both sides of the political divide. Labor and the Coalition obviously reasoned that the best position on Covid electorally was not to have a position at all. Neither party articulated a strategy to manage the virus, or its ever-expanding roll-call of variants, into the future. For the most part, journalists – more interested it seemed in the then Opposition leader’s ‘gaffes’ – could not bring themselves to mention the C-word either.

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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 sense of the righteousness of animal liberation? We read on grimly, plumbing the depths of a despair that would feel commonplace if it didn’t remain, always, so excruciatingly raw.

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To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, television, music, operas, dance, and exhibitions, we invited a number of arts professionals and critics to nominate their favourites.  

... (read more)

Clark (no ‘e’) may not feel misunderstood exactly, but his memoir, An Eye for Talent – a diaristic account of his remarkably enduring directorship of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) from 1969 to 2004 – certainly reads like the seizing of an opportunity to burnish the author’s legacy.

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Regenesis by George Monbiot

by
November 2022, no. 448

This is British environmentalist and writer George Monbiot’s overarching theme in his important new book, Regenesis. While focusing primarily on his native Britain, Monbiot uses a wealth of research – there are almost one hundred pages of notes, and he claims to have read more than 5,000 papers and ‘a shelf of books’ – to argue that the global food production system is in a parlous state. Without comprehensive reform, Monbiot warns, we risk nothing less than the survival of our species.

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