Black Theatre Live


Black Theatre Live, Yellow Earth & Royal Exchange Theatre on tour together nationwide this spring

6 February 2018

Black Theatre Live, Yellow Earth and Royal Exchange Theatre present Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok

The extraordinary true story of women behind Manchester’s Sweet Mandarin restaurant

Written by In-Sook Chappell | Directed by Jennifer Tang

Based on Sweet Mandarin, the family memoir by Helen Tse

22 Mar – 7 April Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester | UK TOUR 18 Apr – 2 June

“In-Sook Chappell has much to relate… it is stinging, salutary stuff” Evening Standard (on P’yongyang)

From a childhood working in a silk factory, to the murder of her father, to the escape to the UK that separated her from her children, the new play by In-Sook Chappell charts the extraordinary life of Lily Kwok. Based on Helen Tse’s family memoir Sweet Mandarin, the play moves from heartwarming highs to catastrophic lows as it recounts the story of the women behind this famous Manchester restaurant. Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok asks questions about what you give up to fit in, and what you leave behind to move forward. The restaurant’s famous Mabel’s Chicken Pot will be cooked live onstage.

Helen has grown up in the UK, but always felt a piece of her story was missing. When she visits her grandmother’s birthplace in Hong Kong for the first time, she’s determined to find out who she really is and where she belongs. Amidst the skyscrapers and bustling streets, she meets her grandmother, Lily Kwok, and steps into her past, discovering shocking family secrets that will change her life forever.

Touring in Spring 2018, Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok is the first major mid-scale tour of a British East Asian play. It is the seventh Black Theatre Live show and will tour the consortium’s eight venues across England, which have come together to commission and showcase excellent theatre from BAME companies.

Helen Tse and her twin sister Lisa 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. Helen is also a practicing lawyer with a law degree from Cambridge University. At selected venues there will be a pre-show cooking demo from Helen and her twin sister Lisa.

Writer In-Sook Chappell 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).

Director Jennifer Tang is a stage director and theatre-maker. She has worked in theatre and opera across the UK and internationally, including the Scandinavian premieres of two Nick Payne plays. She’s recently directed We Are You (Young Vic, British Museum) and Clytemnestra at the Gate Theatre as part of the Iphigenia Quartet, and worked with Chris Goode & Co on Weaklings (tour) and WANTED (West Yorkshire Playhouse). She was a shortlisted finalist for the JMK Directors Award in 2013.

The UK tour of Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok is sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, London (HKETO).   Director-General of the HKETO, Priscilla To said: "We are pleased to be supporting this play portraying the lives of three generations of women as their family moves from Hong Kong to Manchester.  It is a bittersweet tale of finding oneself, of trials and tribulations overcome by valour, determination and familial love.  It is a classic and moving tale highlighting the resilience, resourcefulness and indefatigability that characterises Hong Kong people."

@blacktlive | #MOUNTAINStheplay

Written by In-Sook Chappell     Directed by Jennifer Tang 

Produced by Black Theatre Live, Yellow Earth Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange


Helen Tse Siu-See Hung           Lily Kwok Tina Chiang

Ruth Gibson, Andy Kettu, Matthew Leonhart, Rina Takasaki, Minhee Yeo