Monday, April 22

Worth – Storyhouse, Chester

Four siblings turn a sad day of remembrance into a battle of “who suffered the most” when their deceased Mother leaves them next to nothing in the will. A brilliant premise makes a funny yet dark tale that doesn’t shy away from major themes. The list of trigger warnings in the play’s description will show you that this is no light and fluffy family affair, and although it is hard-hitting at times, you’ll still be laughing.

A simple living room set up is littered in family heirlooms, and the mother looms over all as her portrait stares down on the action. Sudden red surges of light and booming sounds are dispersed throughout the scenes (a clever, unnerving tool used by Jai Morjaria and Nicola T. Chang), as the play descends more and more into chaos.

The five-piece cast are strong and such a convincing family. Knowing each other’s weaknesses, jabbing insults and competing constantly, the actors have created a wonderful dynamic to play around with. Strait-laced dentist, Ted (Stephen Hoo) is a bundle of energy, and really impresses when the character bubbles over in the more intense scenes (no spoilers). Eldest son, Jacob (played with a cocky swagger by Arthur Lee) demands respect despite not earning any. Lee plays it cool as the drug-dealer turned bouncer and knows exactly when to reveal Jacob’s darker side.

Sara Chia-Jewell plays the baby of the bunch, May, with tantrums and dramatic flair that has the audience giggling and rolling their eyes along with her fed-up siblings. Penny (Jennifer Lim) stumbles through the whole ordeal apologising and making tea, that is until she finally cracks, a journey played wonderfully by Lim.

Watching along with the audience and not quite involved is teenager Anthony (Leo Buckley). Penny’s angsty son, who just lost his doting Grandmother, sees his family members descend into madness and is on the verge of being pulled into it. Buckley plays Anthony with just enough typical teen frustration, and the character serves as a great reminder of the differences in the family generations.

With the heightened stakes and regression into their child-like states, the characters do sometimes feel a little over the top and caricature. Don’t get me wrong, this definitely adds to the hilarity of their reactions or tales of woe, but I do wonder if I could have felt more empathy towards them if this was lessened.

Inspired by true events, Joanne Lau has written a play that doesn’t just ask questions about immigrant families, it spans much wider than that. The Chinese influence is vital within the story, but Lau has expertly concocted characters that any family would recognise and see themselves in. Though loss, trauma, grief and sibling rivalries may not make you think of a lovely night out at the theatre, I definitely think this story is WORTH its place on the stage.

Playing until 20th May, https://www.storyhouse.com/event/worth

Reviewer: Coral Mourant

Reviewed: 9th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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