Nov 25, 2023

Sense and Sensibility in the Sound House

Evie Dolan reviews and discuss the successes and surprises of LitSoc and DU History's Regency Ball

Evie DolanContributing Writer

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in possession of a good fortune (27 quid) must be in want of a ball. Luckily for us, the Literary Society (LitSoc) and DU History banded together to host their very own Regency Ball. 

We seem to have arrived at none other than Dublin’s Sound House – a venue known primarily for its alt club nights and fringe theatre acts. A last-minute venue change from the initial destination ensured a departure from conventionality. Originally planned to take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel, the venue was switched to The Sound House six days before the event was due to take place due to “food prices we couldn’t subject you guys to”. Fair enough.  

While there is something delightfully absurd about being lightly (or royally, I am not judging) sozzled in an empire gown and a pelisse coat in a room in which many of us have rather violated the social mores of Regency England, I do think that, for seven and twenty euro, we ought to have experienced something with a little more pizazz.  Here, I may observe that private balls are much more pleasant than public ones, but now we may be silent. Even so, the Sound House’s upstairs room has something of a regency feel to it. Its wainscoted ceiling, damask wallpaper and sparkling chandelier were actually oddly perfect for the soirée. I’ve never been sober enough in that room to notice it had cornicing. How novel! 


Decked in a wide variety of eclectic regency-influenced tenues assemble the ‘ball-goers’. Marvelling at the finery (and after watching a troupe of girls fan dancing), I endeavour to discover everybody’s inspirations and sources. 

The first person I interview is dressed in full Harajuku princess get-up, telling me this is her quotidian style but infused with a Rococo-girly-regency twist. “I’m wearing a hoop skirt with little stars and twinkles to match the frills”. She also tells me she wears her hoop skirts to her 9 ams. How have I never seen her around? 

Most were dressed in tails, frilled collars, and all. Someone got their entire outfit from their 70-year-old landlord: dress, tiara and bra too. Others stuck pearls into their hair à la Lizzy Bennet with eyelash glue or wore their auntie’s Debs dress from the nineties. A favourite of mine was an off-white dress I recognized as Gunne Sax from the eighties. I might just note here the fact that so many of us already had the means appropriate for such an occasion – could this be something of a testament to our comfortable situation in the typical arts and humanities Trinity stereotype? Anon seems to think so: 

“So, what is this Phantom of the Opera-esque moment going on here? Did you just have this lying around?”

“You’re damn right I did.”

“A lot of people are saying that this evening.”

“Given that it’s the DU History and LitSoc, are you really surprised?”

But perhaps on this point it will be as well to be silent. 

When prompted, a rather raucous posse of women gave me their thoughts on the matter of the venue change. “It’s fucking scabby. We came from Wicklow, because we have to commute. We were not served dinner. We were not served alcohol, as guaranteed.” 

Another group seemed to concur: “I think it would have worked with the other venue. I think it’s the fact that it’s in a club venue with string music playing.”

“And we’re all dressed like this!” 

“I feel like it’s so wasted.”

“I don’t mind changing the venue if that’s what’s going to have to happen. But be upfront about what’s going to change. We can no longer do a sit-down dinner etc…” 

“It’s a club.”

“It’s a club.” 

“I’m dressed like I own a brothel…and I’m in a club.”

I do not blame either society – they did the best they could under the circumstances. The main issue was the disparity between the price paid and the amenities experienced. €27 for a tray or two of chicken wings and stretch-or-starve grub is not on. If tavern-core is your vibe then by all means, but is it Regency attire appropriate? I don’t think so. Additionally, the tokens issued that counted towards a free drink had reportedly run out halfway through the event and thus weren’t being cashed in. 

Later on, we resumed the conversation: 

“The venue change makes me sad, but I’m not upset because I know it’s out of their control.” 

“They should’ve had enough tickets for people who came with tickets. I don’t have a token, but I paid for one. They ran out. I didn’t get a free drink. I don’t know what I paid €27 for, but it wasn’t a free drink.” “The simple solution would’ve been to cancel the event or give us a refund or postpone it until they had a correct venue. Nobody would’ve been mad because it was super quick from buying the tickets to the event. They could have easily postponed it.” 

As I’m transcribing this, I can hear Nicki Minaj in the background (the lovely string quartet had departed at this point). Bit of an anachronism. Anyway, I’m done criticising the evening. Overall, while I wouldn’t dub the ball a totally opulent affair, it was a lesson in delightful incongruity. I learnt to waltz (sort of) and we all got an excuse to dress up and get drunk in ball gowns. Not a bad way to spend one’s evening at all. A huge thanks is due to everybody involved in organising, looking forward to the next.  

Evie’s rating: 7.1812 




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