New play looks at the extraordinary life of Lily Kwok

Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok
Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok

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 (Key Theatre, May 1 and 2).

Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok is 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.

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 practising lawyer with a law degree from Cambridge University.

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).

Tickets vivacity.org

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