Arts & Events

New: A Review of the Republican Debate held on September 16, 2015

Grace Underpressure
Saturday September 19, 2015 - 03:39:00 PM

The Pepper Spray Times offers this quick review of the performances of the Republican candidates’ September debate in the hope of helping our thoughtful readers sort the crowded field with the assistance of some of England'’s most articulate critics.

Donald Trump: turning the show into a black-draped harlequinade conjured out of a dressing-up box and laden with gratuitous business argot, focused on powdered wigs and shells of costume dangled from on high.

Ben Carson: if it was perhaps not the critical darling he might have hoped for, Untouchable, his sociopolitically-minded debut piece for the Royal Ballet which premiered in March, was rapturously received by Covent Garden audiences.

Jeb Bush: The production may have been heavy-handed, but every phrase of the music floated. Salzburg'’s Vienna Philharmonic under Dan Ettinger seemed plodding in comparison.

Marco Rubio: His coiled, lolloping, muscular steps have an intensely feral energy and can turn on a sixpence between blazing with anger, effervescing with celebratory fervour, or radiating abject despair.

Scott Walker: Though he took a little while to get his voice moving with total freedom, Walker didn'’t disappoint. He delivered that first-act aria, L’espoir renait dans mon âme, with easy mastery of its coloratura, and balanced that against his unadorned sincerity in the most famous number of all, J’ai perdu mon Eurydice.

Carly Fiorina: a protégé of the great Renata Scotto, sings the dippy heroine Elvira with all her mentor’s questing intelligence. Warm and easy in her top register, she phrases sensitively, shaping the line into expressive meaning and colouring words with imagination. Her Mad Scene in Act 2 was exquisitely done, as was the miraculous (if implausible) recovery of her senses that ensues.

Ted Cruz: There’s not a glimmer here of Cruz as the doomed outsider, scarily different from the other guys, mysterious and alluring, predatory and dangerous, and neither do we sense Cruz’s decline from decent ordinary bloke into half-crazed monomaniac. There’s no intensity, no violence, no sex, no transgression.

Mike Huckabee: seen as an Anna Magnani figure in sombre puritanical black. Quite what lunar cult he leads is left unexplained and it seems inconceivable that he could have concealed two pregnancies over five years, but the concept is broadly effective.

Rand Paul: arrestingly baroque and expressionist in character. Sometimes contradictory events, dreams and reality bleed into one another, while grinding discords yield to gentle neo-Baroque madrigals, only to be obliterated by military marches and Viennese waltzes.

John Kasich: a lot of windy poetic posturing that fails to add any flesh to the characters’ motives, experience or background. The end result is so opaque and navel-gazing as to seem merely a bit silly.

Chris Christie: the orchestration embraces the distinctive sonorities of the pub band: cheap electric guitar, wheezing accordion and penny-whistling tenor recorder and piccolo. It’s music that looks in different directions: I only wish that Christie had avoided the post-modernist cliché of pushing his soprano into a hysterical top register where words vanish.