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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.

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)

Ben Brooker reviews 'Regenesis' by George Monbiot

November 2022, no. 448 29 September 2022
Recently, I overheard a commercial television promotion for some current affairs or lifestyle program on Australian farming. ‘Of course,’ the gruff male voiceover intoned, at pains to ward off any idea the reportage might be unpatriotically negative, ‘Aussie farmers are doing a bang up job!’ To suggest otherwise is, of course, tantamount to sacrilege in a country steeped in the mythology ... (read more)

‘Chalkface: An undercooked play on educational inequity’ by Ben Brooker

ABR Arts 11 August 2022
Every other day there seems to be a news story about the largesse with which public money is dispensed to private schools while the public education system falls further into disrepair and dysfunction. As reported in February 2022 by the Guardian, recent analysis by Save Our Schools shows that between 2009 and 2020 government funding for independent schools increased by $3,338 a student compared w ... (read more)

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

ABR Arts 03 March 2022
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)