JACK RIVLIN: 'Disappointingly for the bitchy reviewer inside me, Sidney Sussex was a hoot. They put substance over style, and it really came off.'
There is no such thing as a bad May Ball review. Looking through the student papers, you’d be hard pressed to find anything below 3 stars. The fact is that after spending £100 on a ticket, no one wants to admit they had a shit time. But there are bad May Balls. Unfortunately for my own journalistic ego, Sidney Sussex wasn’t one of them.
You see, I went to Clare May Ball on Monday and I had a really swell time. But when I read the reviews, I couldn’t help feeling that people had been a little bit generous in their praise. Yes it was one of the best nights of the year, of course it was, but it was also cold, full of queues and lacking anything to do. And with short May Week deadlines, it’s a hell of a lot easier to write a really nasty review than bother to dole out praise. So having missed the boat on a Clare review, my intention was to unleash some vitriol on Sidney, accuse them of failing to offer anything other than cocktail bars and dance floors. But by the time I had sprained my ankle on the dancefloor I realized that Sidney Sussex May Ball was a real hoot.
Venice might be a strange theme for a college with no water in it. Not a problem for Sidney: they simply installed a giant water tank complete with singing Gondoliers. Much has been made in reviews about ‘Wow Factor’ but no amount of Kangaroos or Joy Orbisons can compete with the inventive brilliance of recreating Venice’s Grand Canal.
Sidney’s Ents line-up was, on the face of it, weak. Let’s get one thing straight first: Chipmunk, who arrived surrounded by an entourage of 4 foot wannabes, is a fuck head. There’s an irritating misconception among May Ball committees that what people want to see at a May Ball is some useless manufactured two-hit wonder on the main stage. Chipmunk may have thought he was cooler than the crowd, playing on the popular anxiety that black tie balls are an embarrassment for performers, but let’s be honest – he’ll be rotting in the pop culture gutter that is reality TV before long. Poor choice.
Fortunately, Goldie Lookin’ Chain saved the night. Yes their songs are crude and juvenile. But as Maggot later told me: that’s the fucking point. The highlight of course was the entire crowd being invited on stage during ‘Your mother’s got a penis,’ only for the stage to collapse. The result was that Toploader and DJ Jono Carey’s slots were cancelled, but it was by all accounts a price worth paying. If you didn’t find it funny, you just didn’t get what they are trying to do.
Now for the bad bits. The only really painful queues were the one to get in and, so I hear, the ladies lavvys. Even they became a kind of attraction though, the pain of the former eased by free pizza and the pain of the latter eased by the endless jokes: “Bet you wish you had a cock love! I’ve got one for you…” What a line.
I’ve heard complaints that Sidney lacked the small aesthetic flourishes that make balls a real spectacle. Certainly that’s true: Sidney sacrificed delicate touches for bigger attractions. It was helter-skelters and giant water tanks over shisha tents and boutique cocktail bars. While we’re on the topic of aesthetics, I must concede that the crowd at Sidney were a rather ugly bunch. It wasn’t a ball for anyone who uses the expression “the wrong sort of people.”
If you want delicate and subtle touches, this wasn’t your ball. It was big attractions, big drinks and yes, big people. But compared to the beautiful but ultimately limp balls that blow their budgets on bespoke burgers and costumed cocktail waiters, this was a far more enjoyable affair. Sidney put substance over style, and it really came off.
Food and Drink:
Value for Money:
Star Attraction: Gondola Grand Canal
Biggest Turn Off: The Ugly Crowd