Moment of Grace: the story of the visit by Diana, Princess of Wales to Broderip Ward, Britain’s first AIDS unit

This year is the 35th anniversary of Princess Diana’s opening of Broderip Ward at the Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia. Based on personal testimonies, Moment of Grace by Bren Gosling tells the story of the famous visit by Diana, Princess of Wales to Britain’s first hospital AIDS unit and its impact on three people: Andrew, a patient, Jude, a nurse, and Donnie, a fireman estranged from his son. AIDS was taboo. Even being seen to work on this ward could cost you everything. Stephen Vowles hears from the cast in the run up to Moment of Grace‘s opening at the Hope Theatre on 28th June.

James Taylor-Thomas plays Andrew 

Becoming involved with Moment of Grace is a real honour for me both on a personal level and on a sociological one. From a professional point of view, I am usually cast in comedic roles, and this is a great opportunity to be cast in a dramatic part. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in the month of Pride the play is highly relevant on a personal level. But more crucially, the sociological aspect is important to me, since so many are unaware of the loss, devastation, prejudice, and toxicity of the period when the AIDS pandemic hit. It is of vital importance, I feel, that history is not forgotten, or treated with complacency, for us to learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure the safety of our futures.

Narisha Lawson plays Jude

It really is great to be a part of this production and the team bringing this story to life.

I think it’s important that we reflect on the devastation that took place, not too long ago, which affected so many lives – not just those suffering with HIV/AIDS but those who fought relentlessly and cared immensely, from allies to the healthcare workers. It rocked a community. HIV/AIDS has seen incredible advances in treatment and medical breakthroughs – I think it’s important to tell this story as the stigma still exists in today’s society, and to celebrate the beauty of love and friendship and care.

It feels wonderful to be a part of this production and, with it coinciding with Pride and the 35th anniversary of Diana’s visit, I couldn’t think of a better time!

Richard Costello plays Donnie

As an ex- Firefighter, I was initially drawn to the writing, and the character of Donnie seemed to me like a familiar face in lots of ways. He’s a straightforward ‘bloke’, a product of his time, but underneath and hidden away he’s also very complex and conflicted. I think for the audience to see things from Donnie’s point of view, and to go through his journey with him will bring an important perspective to the play. I was keen to bring him to life. 

I can remember watching the news as a child when Princess Diana visited the AIDS patients, but I couldn’t grasp the enormity of it at the time. It was typical of her, to do something very humble and compassionate which facilitated a huge shift in public opinion. It was a pivotal moment in history. I remember how palpable the media-driven fear was surrounding AIDS and Diana’s visit helped to put the public’s focus back on to the humanity. Even today not much has changed. Fear can always be used to control people and sell things, making this story as pertinent as it ever was.

Moment of Grace runs from Tuesday 28th June to Saturday 16th July at the Hope Theatre –  inside the Hope & Anchor pub on the corner of Upper Street and Islington Park Street – at 207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL. Box office: 0333 666 3366

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