Moment of Grace

Reviewer's rating

Three actors in a bare room above a pub, in the best tradition of London fringe. No stage, Shoestring budget (if any), and a huge heart.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to make good theatre, and in this case – excellent theatre.

Jude (Narisha Lawson) is waiting for the bus as we enter the small room. The play starts with her monologue. We soon find out a few things: Jude is a nurse in an Hiv/Aids unit, it’s raining, the year is 1987 and on this very day Princess Diana is expected to arrive at the hospital to visit the patients and officially open the ward. We also realize that the play is made of three parallel and interconnecting monologues, exploring three different angles of that historic day, April 9th.

Andrew (James Taylor-Thomas) is a patient at the unit. He has Aids and his days are numbered, but he shall meet HRH, even though he refused to be photographed with her, because he doesn’t want his friends and family, and the rest of the world for that matter, to know about his condition. Only one other patient agreed to a photo with Diana, and Andrew admires him for that. The third speaker is Donnie (Richard Costello), a firefighter who cut his gay son out of his life years ago. Macho Donnie is a chauvinist and a homophobe, but we get to see his brighter, good-hearted colors as the play advances. Bren Gosling, The playwright, keeps us in suspense all along, not telling us for example if Andrew is Donnie’s estranged son, or is it perhaps the patient who just died, that Jude is mourning; this victim was kicked out of his family’s home and turned to prostitution in order to survive.

But the identity of Donnie’s actual son is a surprise, with a big dramatic payoff, which brings to life a truly harrowing story that was mainly forgotten. The play is based on extensive research and reminds us of all the horrors of that dark time in the world when people died so young and everything related to the illness was surrounded by fear and ignorance. Jude is scared to be seen on TV as an Aids nurse which might result in her losing her flat. So much shame was involved, and it took one princess to put it all aside in one historic moment of grace. Diana shook the hand of a man suffering from Aids, with no gloves or protection devices, and in that single gesture demonstrated that all the condition needs are compassion and understanding. Was she an angel? Was Jude an angel? Jude thinks not. It’s all about being a human being who sees other human beings for what they are and treat them with respect.

The play itself is a pure moment of grace. The sensitive direction of Su Gilroy and the wonderful acting of all three actors can proudly belong on any West End stage. One can hope it will run beyond this limited engagement, and in the meantime, do yourself a favor and go see it