This three character play based around Princess Diana’s visit to a London’s hospital’s first AIDS unit in 1987 is immensely thoughtful and emotional.
Originally conceived as a play, Bren Gosling’s effective piece is transformed in to a film which explores prejudice, compassion, misunderstanding, grief and regret through the eyes of three very different characters. Moment of Grace offers a well rounded examination on the many different reactions to the AIDS crisis back in 1987 – which has taken on new resonance given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Based around the famous image of Princess Diana shaking hands with an AIDS patient, the story is vividly brought to life thanks to the three contrasting performances from the cast as well as the slick editing by Paul Coleman that ensures each character’s monologue ties in nicely with each other.
Each character has their own dynamic and each works perfectly in conveying just how complex and emotional AIDS is and the impact it has on different people. There’s Jude, a nurse who looks after the patients suffering from AIDS – compassionate at what they are going through and always checking to see who made it through the night. Then there is Andrew, a patient suffering AIDS but also suffering emotionally having never come out to friends or parents as being gay, and Donnie a fireman who is prejudiced about a lot of things. Yet all of their lives are about to change thanks to Princess Diana’s visit to the AIDS ward.
Directed with great simplicity by Nicky Allpress, this is storytelling that beautifully encapsulates all the issues surrounding AIDS – the lack of knowledge and treatment available, the prejudice directed towards those who suffered with it and the compassion of those who helped them through it. There are so many great lines that pack a powerful punch in Ben Gosling’s script including when nurse Jude asks “what must it be like to be afraid of you because of who you are?” strikes a real note, highlighting the rawness of feelings that are on display throughout.
While some of the more dramatic shots in black and white might slightly distract from the message of the play, the close up shots are particularly mesmerising – particularly of those of Andrew (Luke Dayhill) that offer a real sense of the isolation that many AIDS patients must feel.
Every element of the story beautifully unfolds, with each monologue feeling so intimate it as if you are there with the characters. This is enhanced by the sincerity of the performances – in particular Luke Dayhill as Andrew who draws the audience in with his honest, compassionate and heartbreaking renditions of the sights he has seen on the ward. But equally, Lucy Waker Evans shines as Jude capturing that sense of helplessness she feels in dealing with a situation out of her control.
Overall, this is an extremely moving piece that grabs the attention from start to finish. Well worth a watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Moment of Grace is available to watch via The Actors Centre website until the 9th August. Tickets cost £6.