ArcSoc Cabaret: Voluptuosus

OJ WATSON couldn’t recommend this year’s cabaret any more if he tried.


During my time at Cambridge, Arcsoc Cabaret has established itself as one of the most anticipated events of the Lent Term. So I approached the night, and this subsequent review, with an increased sense of cynicism, especially considering that the price has hiked up in the last 2 years. This being said, I was undeniably impressed.

Architects, naturally, have a talent for creating something beautiful with the space and materials provided. The Union, despite its undeniable grandeur, is a difficult venue to host a vision of Voluptuosus; but it was a challenge that the committee rose to. The décor was perhaps not as full on as in previous years, but there was definitely a case being made for less is more. The installation of the “cube within a cube” display from Queens’ Art Festival both intrigued queuing participants and baffled those a little under the influence by the end of the night. Upstairs displayed a full length piece of artwork displaying voluptuous women, which cast with subtle lighting left guests piling up for new cover photos for their facebook profiles.

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The cube called to the revellers like moths to a flame.

As in previous years, a number of the Union’s function rooms were opened up to cater to whatever mood you were in. The upstairs societies room was simple but effective, and made for a much-improved location for life drawing.  The downstairs “blue room” featured a diverse catalogue of live acts. I caught Lorelai’s eclectic mix of jazz and indie first and was particularly impressed by their cover of Sean Pauls’ Breathe. Other highlights included the burlesque dancers and The Yen’s funk set – complete with one of the funkiest shirts I have ever seen on a bassist.

On the topic of costumes, there was a range of efforts made to grapple with the abstract voluptuosus theme. But the nice thing was how the vast majority attempted. Regardless of whether they wore subtle wooly-ball covered slippers, their best bow tie and waistcoat, or wrappings of sheets and material fashioned to resemble a truly disturbing and bulging abomination (you had to be there to see it) it all added to the almost glutinous pleasure that the night gave.

One of the many winged creatures that was drawn to the earlier cube.

One of the many winged creatures that was drawn to the earlier cube.

But, as with previous years, the dance floor in the chamber was the real highlight. For starters, there is just something innately pleasing about the historic debating chamber being used as a dance floor. I can’t vouch for the first couple of hours of DJ’s but by 11pm, the room was full and being treated to wonderfully crafted sets of house and bits of drum & bass. The transitions and mixing were professional and the closing two-hour set from my namesake’s OJ + Irving Washington kept people dancing right up until the close.

It may seem like I’m being over congratulatory, but I struggle to find a genuine reason to complain. The cloakroom, which has caused complaints in the past, was efficiently run with (to my knowledge) nothing being lost. The random blob like tickets could maybe have had more thought put in (mind, plenty thought the tickets captured the theme well). Perhaps I wondered where the extra £5 was being spent, but it didn’t dwell on my mind, as I would happily have paid the £20 that last minute tickets were being sold for.

The night certainly was as advertised: voluptuōsus – “full of pleasure, delightful”. Make sure you grab a ticket next year, this event’s only getting better with time.