Review: Denim

LEAF ARBUTHNOT is swept away on a tide of glitter, enormous wigs and Mary J Blige at the captivating, cross-dressing event ‘Denim’.

Cambridge cross dressing Dance denim DJs drag queen lady marmalade Leaf Arbuthnot mary j blige Music Queens' RnB Saxophone

November 11th, Fitzpatrick Hall, Queens’ College, £5

[rating: 5/5]

To all you ash-grey men who stayed in last night, spurning your wigs, your lipstick and rouge, ha-ha! To all you ladies, who overboiled noodles and essayed, ignoring the summons of your dress-up bowties, tee-hee! You muggles! You wretches! You piteous flubbers! You missed out big time.

While most of Cambridge slept or worked or popped to Sainsbury’s, the luckiest went to Queens’ to swap a fiver for what was hoped to be, and what was, a deliriously fun night. The hype (and, indeed, the queue) was formidable; last year’s Denim had punched through a glass ceiling nobody had known existed: could take two match up?

Answer: how could you doubt us, faithless ones?

The Denims seized their wrist-stamped disciples and gave them considerably more than the recommended daily dose of charisma, entertainment, dance, razzle, free love and cross-dressing. Sexualities were nuanced, taboos okayed, performers fallen in love with.

It was the emancipation that we had been thirsting for. And the music was banging. Cambridge seems to suffer of a dearth of gifted DJs, but Denim managed to unearth one of singular talent. The 90’s R’n’B hit the spot and pleasured us all, multiple times. Thank you, Mary J Blige.

Photographs by Chrystal Ding

The move from last year’s Clare Cellars to the larger Fitzpatrick Hall was a sage one; there was no need to fear for sky-scraping wigs and sufficient space to cut some serious geometry on the dance floor. It was a showcase of Cambridge’s best; a selection of talents whose discarded tissues and old yoghurt pots it might well be worth collecting now.

The band was tight, with rhythms and spirits kept beautifully a-bob by an equally beautiful MD. The saxophonist was awesome, maintaining an expression of stunned bemusement for the ENTIRE SHOW. Glamrou’s opening rap set the bar stupidly high; from then on there was a satisfying variety of cannily chosen ditties, from the Broadway style You & I to Sophie Crawford’s rendition of Purple Rain, which fell upon audience ears like a gift.

Two Ladies was particularly good, a personal favourite. Chi-chi, alias Mateo Oxley, handled all the parts of Lady Marmalade with easy brilliance. Rasmussen’s One Night Only was vocally, and indeed sartorially, stunning. Something changed within me when Woolf delivered his Defying Gravity.

A remarkable evening. Though the cast professed to be “on the edge of glory”, nobody believed them. They were glorious. They were so, so glorious.