An Invitation...

Bodies are awkward, difficult things. Even trained dancers struggle with the unpredictability of possessing a body — it can so easily betray us and make us laughable. Jo Fong takes on this most human of conditions in An Invitation, a smart, playful piece which regretfully never quite finds its balance.

An Invitation’s greatest strength is perhaps its willingness to delve into the difficulty and potential embarrassment of movement.

An Invitation is designed to incorporate its audience into the performance — a tall order for what is theoretically a dance piece. Viewers face one another from two long rows of chairs, one on each side of the mirrored, sunlit dance studio. We’re invited to watch ourselves watching each other, and at times the effect is fairly mesmerising. The performers enter with the audience, and only reveal themselves over the course of a protracted question-and-answer session in which viewers are addressed as creators of this work, (“how long have you all been working together?”), which results in nervous laughter. A good deal of the show is taken up with question of beginning: the dancers are unsure how to begin, and they look for guidance from each other and the audience as they devise and reject possible beginnings. An Invitation asks a Prufrockian question: how should we presume? How do we begin? The piece very cleverly explores this uncertainty: the dancers give each other commands to make movements more precise, more free, etc., but they’re never fully satisfied with their choices. At one point, Fong even asks, “Is this the part where I talk about uncertainty?” Dancing, which can seem so precise and so free, is really a very uncertain art. A dancer can’t see what she looks like to the audience. Being watched whilst moving, whether on stage or simply entering a room, is always faintly terrifying. We’re afraid of being misread, or laughed at. An Invitation’s greatest strength is perhaps its willingness to delve into the difficulty and potential embarrassment of movement.

While the performers are fully committed to their own awkwardness, the piece never quite fully addresses the audience’s uncertainty. It invites audience interaction, but it’s never fully clear when the opportunity to join in presents itself, or if the audience is influencing the performance in any tangible way. The piece does raise interesting questions on the nature of watching and the effect of an audience upon a performance, but the barrier between performer and viewer still stands, which is ultimately unsatisfying, (no doubt this element varies with different audiences, however). Certain staged moments of spontaneity can feel a bit disingenuous and at times the awkwardness feels forced. There are some wonderful moments, (Fong recalls watching her father dance at a wedding, a dancer performs a move she made up when she was 13), but the viewer’s role in all of this is left uncertain. At the end, we’re still passively watching a performance.

This performance is an invitation which fails to evoke a response. It’s exceedingly clever, philosophical, and at times funny and warm, but the uncertainty it leaves feels like a dead-end rather than a call to somewhere else. For dancers and others, however, it’s worth watching, and a work certainly worthy of further exploration.

Reviews by Lauren Moreau

Summerhall

Near Gone

★★★★★
Dance Base

An Invitation...

★★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

She Loves Me

★★★★
Pommery Champagne Cafe Bar

Champagne Tutored Tasting

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

An Invitation... is an alive and evolving work. An Invitation... is about connection, conversation, spontaneity and uncertainty. It’s also playful, joyous, imaginative, powerful and human. It is about us. We are creating this performance now. We play the performer. We play the audience. We are the show. 'As beautiful as it is unnerving, the joy of movement celebrated as the performers – like the audience – work their way through an understanding. It’s an experience, one you shouldn't miss' (Thea Hawlin).

Most Popular See More

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £22.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets