Christ's May Ball - Review
Alex Marshall enjoys the Rio de Janeiro theme at Christ's May Ball, but is mostly happy because he gets to open champagne with a sword.
Wednesday 27th June 2012, 17:28 BST
“Surrender to the energetic rhythm of the carnival” was the enigmatic invitation found in the guide booklet for Christ’s May Ball, themed La Cidade Maravilhosa. The cynicism with which one can read such an introduction was completely swept away by childish delight, as I entered Christ’s College and was offered the opportunity to open champagne bottles with a sword. Yet this profoundly inefficient method of supplying the champagne reception was just the start of what was a rich and fantastical night at Christ’s May Ball.
The college itself is already a beautiful reminder of Cambridge architecture and the Brazilian theme, surprisingly, matched the setting perfectly with a professional aesthetic. I was not transported to Rio de Janeiro, but instead enjoyed a tasteful and exotic flavour on familiar backgrounds.
Each court had specified purposes: the Second Court served as a centre for food and drink, the Third Court as the main stage, and the car park (or, Parque de Diversões, I should say) hosted fun fair attractions. The decorations were largely consistent throughout, however special mention must be given to the gardens which looked utterly fantastic, with mood lighting and overgrown butterflies littered across the walls and trees. Added to this, the carnival dancers provided a welcome reminder of the Brazilian motif when one stumbled intoxicated between courts.
The food and drink were well suited to the theme, along with the staple May Ball fare of hog roast and BBQ. The fajitas, in particular, were never in short supply and sustained my friends throughout the night. Neither did I encounter a shortage of beverages during my time at Christ’s, with a strong supply of beer, cocktails and dubious shots. My only, entirely toff-ish, complaint was that I completely missed the whiskey tasting, although I found other distractions soon enough.
Christ’s did not pitch their May Ball with a well-known headliner, instead opting with a lesser known pop-indie band called Theme Park and thankfully I managed to catch most of their set. I’d be lying if I said they were the most memorable of acts, with most of their songs blending into one cheery, melodic mix, but they suited the venue well and were an upbeat addition to the evening. Truly Medley Deeply, later in the night, got the crowd going with their choice selection of covers and even had me singing along, wildly off tune after loyal custom to the nearby shots-table.
Unfortunately, I am very aware that I did not see a great deal of the other acts. For example, the acoustic stage in First Court sounded like a welcome shift from the main stage. However the First Court, on arrival, seemingly appeared to be predominantly a reception area, thus I didn’t end up visiting this end of the college nearly as often as I should have. Similarly the DJ Tent took quite a while to fill up, but by 3 or 4 am it was reassuring to see a small crowd enjoying that option.
Christ’s succeeded with their attractions, from the bungee run, penalty shoot-out and shisha in the gardens, to arcade games and silent disco in New Court. There was more than enough here to keep me entertained, and opportunities aplenty to pose for that quintessential May Ball photo, be it in front of the model of a large, red dragon or the replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Furthermore, the fun fair was a pleasant distraction, complete with helter skelter, coconut shy and shooting range.
Again, I feel I only scratched the surface of such features: I never managed to reach the casino (although I never do at May Balls, for some reason) and did not find the time to appreciate the many and varied dance acts.
Although most May Ball reviews end with a negative, or drawback on the event, I do not feel the need. Partly because, shock horror, there were very few problems with queuing, but also because, all in all, I think the Christ’s May Ball committee did a great job despite lacking a well-known headline act. And because I got to open champagne bottles with a sword. A thoroughly delightful evening at Christ’s, with a hint of Rio de Janeiro.