A Place for We at Park Theatre
With a strong premise and a great sense of humour, A Place for We is a searching play that succeeds on many levels. From its outline to the emotional finesse of its cast, it does well in establishing a connection with its audience and manages to hook throughout its runtime. Unfortunately the general plot line leaves an open-ended emotional gap where closure is needed.
The narrative is centred around Clarence James (David Webber), a Black British undertaker with Trinidadian roots, whose mixed-race son Keron (Laurence Ubong Williams) no longer wishes to follow his father’s tradition of only conducting traditional West Indian funerals, instead wanting to expand their customer base.
The first act offers a powerful build-up towards a climactic confrontation between tradition and change – only to be dropped in the second act. Instead of following the same trajectory, viewers first get a lengthy flashback, in which a young Clarence’s father buys the venue from a couple who are losing their pub due to not being able to adapt, and then a short jump into the future, in which Keron has moved away and the business is gone, leaving Clarence in despair.
While the theme is clear, it just doesn’t quite resonate on an emotional level due to the lack of any sort of immediate resolution after the climax in the first act. Instead, the family’s past and future are received in bite-sized pieces, building up to the business failing and thus making room for the new. It raises the question of why some of the characters don’t seek a compromise. Why is adapting to a more inclusive business impossible for Clarence?
But A Place for We still maintains a powerful presence in the areas where it succeeds; it contains a wonderfully dark humour in the face of a funeral director’s business, a stellar cast (with David Webber and Joanna Horton leading some powerful performances), and a neat production by director Michael Buffong, whose sound designer Tony Gayle works some very subtle magic in a way that feels very authentic in each of the play’s three time periods.
As such, it deserves a warm recommendation. Its theme of the untenability of tradition in the face of change is not often seen on-stage in this way, and with its strong prose and engaging cast it is enjoyable throughout – even if the plot feels a bit underwhelming.
A Place for We is at Park Theatre from 7th October until 6th November 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the cast and director discuss A Place for We here: