One amazing thing that has come out of COVID-19 Theatre is more filmed theatre. My latest theatre experience from the comfort of my own couch was Moment of Grace by Bren Gosling, present by Backstory Ensemble.
The film explores the idea of previous pandemics taking over the world, with people and places unsure how to behave or what to do. We open in the 1980s during the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The story opens with a news report regarding Princess Diana’s visit to Middlesex Hospital to see an AIDS ward.
With COVID-19 at the moment, some people show little to no care about catching it or preventing the spread. Everyday we see more and more people around the world arguing against wearing a mask, refusing to use hand sanitiser and unwilling to stay home to protect themselves. Back in the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS pandemic came hand in hand with a stigma that these people were dirty, sick, couldn’t be touched for fear of passing on the disease. Ironically it’s incredibly unlikely you will catch anything from a HIV positive person as it’s passed through bodily fluids, blood etc. Yet with COVID, touching is something you need to be careful about.
Nicky Alpress directs this incredible film by weaving individual monologues together to tell the tale of the day that Princess Diana changed the commentary on AIDS and began a wave of acceptance. We follow three people who were impacted by the visit. First we have Jude (played by Lucy Walker-Evans) a 24 year old nurse who loves her role and proudly does everything she can for her patients in the AIDS ward. She is assigned Andrew (played by Luke Dayhill) as her patient. He is not only battling with the disease but is also still hiding his sexuality so everyone he cares about believes he is in a ‘normal’ ward for a ‘normal’ illness. He is incredibly excited to meet the Princess but is also terrified he will be ‘outed’ on TV. Our final main character is Donnie (Andrew Paul), a fireman from Essex. He has a typical working class life but is a bit behind when it comes to progressive thinking. All of their lives shift on the day that Princess Diana visits the ward.
This was an emotional ride to say the least. There were moments that the writer Ben Gosling really delved into the difficult subject matter and creates a large emotional reaction from the viewer. I personally found that the small details were actually the most upsetting, like their check every day to see who or how many people had survived from the night before. Donnie has a very interesting character arc, you think you know what is going to happen to him but Gosling sends him down a completely different road.
All three actors achieve an amazing connection with the viewer, speaking to a single phone in their own acting space. Yet you really feel like you’re sitting at a table listening to them tell you all about their experience meeting Princess Diana.
Moment of Grace is a snippet of time in these people’s lives, a window into their everyday, yet it’s so much more. It shows the positive impact that came from someone as famous and influential as Princess Diana, showing bravery and kindness towards people who had been pushed away by society. Her visit changed how people thought of AIDS and certainly helped the patients she visited that day.
Andrew: “Who ever would have believed it? Diana on one arm and Jude on the other… My angel wings.”
Moment of Grace was originally due to run at Tristan Bates Theatre but was reimagined for film during COVID-19 Lockdown.
Tickets from £6 https://www.actorscentre.co.uk/theatre/moment-of-grace