We take a look at what is being said about the world premiere of Joanne Lau’s new play.
WhatsOnStage: ** “Jennifer Lim gives the least showy performance as elder daughter Penny and mother of Anthony, who tries to act as peacemaker.”
The Guardian: *** “What begins as a dark comedy of manners – with Teddy boasting about his successful dentist practice and protesting: “I’m not a racist, I subscribe to the Guardian!” – becomes a fraught recital of childhood abuses and family grievances that starts to make The Homecoming look like an episode of Friday Night Dinner.”
The Stage: ** “Joanne Lau’s unfocused and unpolished comedy explores loyalty, inheritance and trauma.”
The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “At one level Worth is a caustic satire on attitudes to hierarchy and status in a portion of Britain’s East and South East Asian immigrant families. “They want you to be happy, but not that happy” says one of the siblings, the implication being that what matters most is what you are worth. “Why did we put up with it?” asks another. Because that is what is expected of them being the single possible answer. The only inheritance of any value Ah Ma leaves her children is cash and bitter memories, but what is money really worth if it is so tainted? The bigger theme at issue here is the trade-off between love, happiness, and material success in bringing up children. It is a not uniquely an immigrant concern. Lau also has a stark point to make about how brutal parents breed brutalised children.”
British Theatre Guide: “These aren’t the kind of stories you make up; you can’t help a strong feeling that dramatist Joanne Lau draws here on real life dilemmas, but director Mingyu Lin overlays it with theatrical stylisation.”
Once a Week Theatre: “The script’s strengths come with its closely observed characters, which lead to neat performances. The siblings are distinct and show the effects of their childhood in different ways. Arthur Lee makes a convincing psychopath as Jacob. Sara Chia-Jewell has a tougher job as the highly strung youngest child, May. Having moved to America and found religion, much of the competition over misery rests on her shoulders. Stephen Hoo does well in the play’s most harrowing scene as the insecure yet successful Ted, while the always-apologising Penny makes a great role for Jennifer Lim, who has a firm grasp of the play’s comedy and a strong stage presence.”
Theatre Vibe: “The very short first act of a half hour or less has much to laugh at, jokes where the relatives deprecate one another but, after time, the complete lack of empathy felt for any of the characters started to weigh with me.”
All That Dazzles: **** “Worth is billed as a dark family comedy drama about family loss and sibling rivalry. It’s so much more than that. It explores gender roles and family expectations across both British and Chinese culture, inheritance conflict, bitterness, jealousy – and is fundamentally about the emotion we all feel toward our family, be it love, hatred, resentment, or otherwise. It also sensitively tackles head-on some heavy topics, like child abuse, sexual abuse, and drug misuse – some of which may be difficult to watch onstage but never feels self-indulgent or inappropriate. A frankly brutal ending will leave its audience wondering about their own lived experiences, and asking: in money, people, resentment, or freedom – where do you put your worth?”
The production will run at the Arcola Theatre until the 29th April before transferring to Chester’s Storyhouse, playing from the 5th to the 20th May.