Review: Normal Formal

ELLIE CHAN reviews a bog standard formal, in her gown and everything.

food Formal

My friend is beginning to get a wistful look in his eye. Forever Young features with alarming regularity on his most played on iTunes, Monster Munch has become his idea of haute cuisine and he spent several hours in the ballpit at Churchill Spring Ball, sobbing quietly into his one grey hair. Yep, he’s reached the singular most terrifying, most  life-altering-cum-destroying moment Cambridge has to offer; he is turning 20.

However he surprises me as I sit there smugly contemplating the veritable weeks of teendom expanding ahead of me, by announcing, contrary to the vodka-jelly-and-icecream, pass-the-parcel, musical-chairs hybrid ‘party’ we were all so eagerly anticipating, that we are going to ‘Normal Formal’ to celebrate. Right. Okay. And what, pray, will this entail? Oh, just Hall, regular Hall. In our gowns. And dressed up. No-one has any money anyway. So astounded are we by the beauty of this evidently senile logic that everyone agrees. And so, at 6 o’clock sharp, we totter sheepishly across the court, blinking in the alarmingly sober light of it all, to experience the second, possibly third best College can offer.

There are several flaws. Alcohol is apparently not permitted. Anything resembling mood-lighting (read: candles, or possibly just anything forgivingly dimmed at all), is not allowed. The starter, and dessert in many cases, was non-existent. The looks we get are unanimously uncomprehending – I mean, haven’t they ever seen a gown before? And our ‘host’ arrives 15 minutes late, although thankfully be-suited, bow-tied and complete with gown and complacent grin which indicates he half contemplated not turning up at all, or even walking in in pyjama bottoms and flipflops and asking us what we were all doing.

Yes, we resemble the cast of Harry Potter, which is slightly awesome in itself, in a sort of guilty-pleasure, We Never Got Our Letters From Hogwarts And Are Actually Still Quite Bitter About It kind of way – and slightly completely and utterly wrong. The Desperate Fan effect is not cohesive enough to look ironic, so we’re thinking maybe wands next time. Maybe brush up on a few spells. Perhaps some floating candles…

Normal Formal is, at the very least, marvellously cheap. This slightly redeems the fact that what you are eating is essentially a bog-standard school dinner. It won’t aid your pre-lash; it has none of the ceremony of Formal; but it will ensure you don’t end up in Cindies with Mahal curry/apple VK/similar in your hair, surrounded by Neanderthals and people dressed up as Neanderthals. Mainly this is because a vital prerequisite of Normal Formal is the Just-Crawled-Out-Of-The-Library look and can only truly be pulled off sans make-up, brushed hair, and with a smog of coffee surrounding the general vicinity. Best of both worlds in my opinion.