Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre hosts a production of Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok, telling the astonishing story of generations of women behind Manchester restaurant and Northern Quarter institution Sweet Mandarin.

The seventh Black Theatre Live show, Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok is the first major mid-scale tour of a British East Asian play not aimed at a family audience and is sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.  The play has been co-produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre and Yellow Earth.

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What is Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok at the Royal Exchange Theatre about?

Charting the life of Lily Kwok, Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok by In-Sook Chappell tells the story of two extraordinary women. This astonishing tale moves from Lily’s childhood job in a silk factory, to the murder of her father and finally her journey to the UK. Based on her granddaughter’s family memoir Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse, this new play recounts the incredible true story of the generations of women behind this famous Manchester restaurant.  Directed by Jennifer Tang (We Are You at Young Vic, British Museum; Clytemnestra at the Gate Theatre; and Wanted at West Yorkshire Playhouse) the play asks questions about what you give up to fit in, and what you leave behind to move forward. Helen has grown up in the UK, but always felt a piece of her story was missing. Amidst the skyscrapers and bustling streets, she meets her grandmother, Lily Kwok, and steps into a past of shocking family secrets that will change her life forever.

Siu-See Hung takes on the role of Helen Tse and Tina Chiang plays Lily Kwok.  The cast is completed by Ruth Gibson, Andy Kettu, Matthew Leonhart, Rina Takasaki, Minhee Yeo.

Helen Tse and her twin sister Lisa Tse have run the Sweet Mandarin restaurant since 2004. It was voted Best Local Chinese restaurant on Gordon Ramsay’s the F Word, and Helen and Lisa were awarded an MBE for Services to Food and Drink in 2014. They have three cookbooks and a range of sauces that are sold internationally.

Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok has been written by In-Sook Chappell who was born in South Korea and raised in England.  Her first play This Isn’t Romance won the Verity Bargate Award and was produced at the Soho Theatre, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and most recently presented in Korean at the National Theatre of Korea. Her other plays include Tales of the Harrow Road (Soho Theatre), Absence (Young Vic), and P’yongyang (Finborough Theatre).

When is Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester?

Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok is performed at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from 22 March until 7 April 2018.  Tickets are priced £13.  The restaurant’s famous dish, Mabel’s Chicken Pot, will be cooked live onstage engaging all the senses to tell this epic story of Hong Kong and Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

image courtesy University of Salford Press Office/flickr under creative commons licence.