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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.

The Sound of Falling Stars (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)

ABR Arts 22 June 2017
It has been almost forty years since Robyn Archer first performed A Star is Torn, her one-woman cabaret honouring the too-short lives of female singers from Bessie Smith to Janis Joplin. Playing for a year on the West End, and spawning both an album (in 1980) and a book (1986), the show substantially made Archer’s reputation overseas, touring widely for four years. Now she has written and direct ... (read more)

1984 (State Theatre Company of South Australia)

ABR Arts 18 May 2017
In recent years George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (first published in 1949) has twice been returned to bestseller lists around the world – in the wake of the United States National Security Agency’s global surveillance scandal, and following Donald Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway’s decidedly Orwellian coinage of ‘alternative facts’ while defending the White House’s false claims a ... (read more)

No Man's Land (Wyndham's Theatre)

ABR Arts 19 December 2016
It was in early 1974, while Harold Pinter was in America and working on a screen adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, that the originating image of No Man’s Land occurred to him: I remember, I was sitting in this taxi and I actually saw two people sitting in a room and one of them was about to pour the other one a drink and he said: ‘As it is?’ and the other character said: ... (read more)

Tartuffe (State Theatre Company of South Australia and Brink Productions)

ABR Arts 11 November 2016
Web articles proliferate that aim to show the disparity between Donald Trump’s religious sentiments (‘I think the Bible is certainly, it is the book’) and his decidedly unholy behavior (including, but not limited to, numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault). It is from within this space – what Martin Luther King Jr called the ‘the agonising gulf between the ought and the is ... (read more)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Ethics in the Real World: 86 brief essays on things that matter' by Peter Singer

November 2016, no. 386 28 October 2016
In its original meaning, the word ‘philosopher’ simply meant ‘lover of wisdom’. At a time when theories of knowledge were still in their infancy, it was applied to thinkers – often, by the standards of the day, polymaths – who were able to turn the light of their intellects onto a vast range of fields: physics, chemistry, political science, ethics. A philosopher thus defined could not ... (read more)

Things I Know To Be True (State Theatre Company of South Australia and Frantic Assembly)

ABR Arts 17 May 2016
At least as far back as 2002, playwright Andrew Bovell was advocating for more diversity on Australia's main stages: 'I see the same actors,' he told Hilary Glow in an interview for her book Power Plays (2007), '[and] they are invariably white and Anglo-Saxon, and I am not satisfied with that as a portrayal of our culture.' Fourteen years later, in his new play – his first original stage work, ... (read more)

Desdemona (Melbourne Festival)

ABR Arts 27 October 2015
'What's in a name?' asked Juliet. Desdemona, like the rose, might have been called anything else and retained the same meanings. But for us, as we are reminded at the beginning of Desdemona, the name has become synonymous with misery and doom. The speaker is Desdemona herself. How can this be? If we know anything else about her, it is that Othello murdered her within hours of the consummation of t ... (read more)

The Aspirations of Daise Morrow (Brink Productions)

ABR Arts 16 October 2015
‘Down at the Dump’ is the final story in Patrick White’s 1964 collection, The Burnt Ones. It begins with a colloquial ‘Hi!’, marooned on the story’s first line, and ends with a short, unpunctuated paragraph, intensely poetic, that recalls James Joyce at his least opaque: ‘The warm core of certainty settled stiller as driving faster the wind paid out the telephone wires the fences the ... (read more)

Faust and Verdi's Requiem (State Opera of South Australia)

ABR Arts 14 September 2015
Good and evil, damnation and salvation, love and death, virtue and folly: State Opera of South Australia’s pairing of Gounod’s five-act grand opera Faust () with Verdi’s momentous opera cum oratorio Requiem() epically traverses the profoundest bays of the human condition. Together, they round out a season inaugurated by Mozart’s Don Giovanni, another staple of the repertoire that has at it ... (read more)

The Rivers of China (Don't Look Away)

ABR Arts 03 June 2015
Australian plays good or simply fortunate enough to make it from page to stage have historically tended to meet one of two fates: canonisation or, much more likely, limited production when still new and utter neglect thereafter. Independent Melbourne theatre company Don’t Look Away, established in 2013 under the artistic direction of Phil Rouse, specialises in exhuming the dead plays with which ... (read more)