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The Invitation

Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet is gripping dance theatre, with its complex exploration of innocence and moral corruption.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of The Invitation. It was last on stage 28 May—11 June 2016.

The Story

Two cousins, a boy and a girl, are on the cusp of adolescence. The girl’s mother hosts a house party. Among the attendees is an unhappily married couple. Husband and wife turn their attention to the children.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Kenneth MacMillan created The Invitation for the touring company of The Royal Ballet in 1960; the premiere was in Oxford, with the London premiere two months later. Inspired by the New Wave in French cinema and ‘kitchen sink realism’ in British theatre, he wanted to create a ballet where the audience would be ‘moved by something they can recognize’. The resulting ballet, with its brutal onstage rape, was a watershed for MacMillan and for ballet. Key to MacMillan’s conception was Lynn Seymour, who created the role of the girl. Her unparalleled skills as a dancer-actress allowed her to make the most of the psychological depth contained within each step that MacMillan created.

MacMillan wrote his own scenario for the ballet, conflating elements of Colette’s Le Blé en herbe and Beatriz Guido’s House of the Angel to construct a story of sexual awakening and psychological trauma against the rigid moral framework of a colonial society. The ballet was MacMillan’s first to a newly created score, provided by the Hungarian-British composer Mátyás Seiber – although the composer’s tragic early death in a car crash a few months before the premiere meant MacMillan had to shorten his original conception. MacMillan’s regular collaborator Nicholas Georgiadis (Romeo and Juliet) provided the designs.

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