Moment of Grace is currently running at the Hope Theatre, we interviewed writer, Bren Gosling to find out more about the play.
You can book tickets for the show here.
So, how is the run of Moment of Grace going?
Audience reception has been fantastic! Some have emailed in with their positive feedback about the play and this production, which is really nice. We’ve had 4- and 5-star press reviews across the board and a lot of media attention, with interviews for London Live, Second City Radio, Boyz, Metro, The i paper and Pink News amongst others.
Can you tell us what the play is about?
The princess, the patient and the handshake that changed the face of AIDS.
2022 is the 35th anniversary of Princess Diana’s opening of Broderip Ward at The Middlesex Hospital. This play addresses topics and events that are largely forgotten, an untold part of recent LGBTQ+ history.
Based on personal testimonies, Moment of Grace tells the story of the famous visit by Diana Princess of Wales to Britain’s first 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. Worldwide interest, news crews and a televised interview followed. To change public misconceptions, would you have risked it?
This one act play showcased to acclaim at Bloomsbury Festival 2018 and in 2020 won the NO: INTERMISSION International One Act Play Competition. A filmed version was streamed from The Actors Centre, and this was awarded an ONCOM Commendation by The Offies.
Writing about historic events, did you have to do any specific research?
Most definitely I had to do research. I contacted The National HIV Story Trust via The London Metropolitan Archives. The Trust has collected over 100 filmed interview testimonials of individuals impacted by Britain’s AIDS pandemic pre-effective treatment. I also interviewed long term survivors, and doctors and nurses who worked with AIDS patients in the 1980’s in London, including Dr Rob Miller who was present when Princess Diana opened Broderip ward, Britain’s first AIDS Unit in 1987. I went to The LGBTQ Archive at Bishopsgate Institute to look at tabloid newspaper headlines surrounding the event.
What was the writing process like?
First, I had to shrink time to fit a dramatic one act play, so to around 60 minutes. The set up was easy. But the action needed to unfold of less than 24 hours. I then had to choose my fictional characters; people who would have been hugely affected by Diana’s visit. I came up with Jude, 24, a nurse on the Unit, Andrew a patient and Donnie a white, working-class fireman from Chingford estranged from his gay son. Donnie is really a foil for the tabloid reading public of the time, playing against the other two characters. But he has an interesting backstory and an outcome which will surprise.
Do you have any tips for aspiring Playwrights?
- Always re write.
- Learn from actor’s feedback notes and redraft your script after a reading. Use Spotlight ( you must subscribe but can do this for short periods ) or Mandy to find good actors that meet the requirements of your play.
- Enter competitions, like those listed on this blog. You may not win, you might win, but either way, often you will get useful feedback. It will start to put your name out there.
- Cast the best actors you can audition and who fit together best in the final line up.
- Pitch to festivals, good ones, to try out your work. Some festivals are generous, don’t charge for venue hire and will often promote for free
- Once you are serious, consider doing a one week and then a three-week run. Normally you would need a three-week run to get decent coverage in terms of Press reviews.
- Consider engaging a PR company to organise Press Night and to promote your production.
- Think about getting the right venue, the right dates at the right price to fit the available budget. You may well have to compromise.
- Find a director with at least some staging experience, compatible with your personality AND your play is critical. So cast the net wide. Don’t hurry this.
- You DO need to promote across socials. Use teaser videos together with good quality production stills to entice Press and attract audience.
- Consider self-producing. Also remember, there are charitable Trusts and other potential commercial sponsors out there if you hunt them down. These will be related to the subject material of your play. I gave up with ACE funding(for the time being) after a lot of work putting a submission together and to end up being told ‘Other projects preferred’. Apparently, this is good, it means you’ve ticked all their boxes, just that other projects like yours were chosen for funding in the same round. So… I’m not saying don’t do it. But be aware it’s a huge amount of work, potentially stressful because you need to get moving with a production before you receive an answer from ACE, which may not be what you want. If you rely on getting funding from ACE and this isn’t successful, you will then need to fund from elsewhere , whilst at the same time producing you play. VERY STRESSFUL. Some playwrights have been successful with Crowdfunding , although I have never gone down that route, as it’s also uncertain.
- Think about whether you will need a lighting designer, sound designer, stage manager, composer, tech operator. These are the other members of the creative team who will bring to life you work for an audience. If in doubt, pare back and keep everything simple. You may have to double up on some of these roles because of budget
- .Above all, allow enough time to do all of this. As a writer you may want to be involved in the casting process and if you also produce, you will need to make clear the buck stops with you. But. Be prepared to listen to the vision of others for you play.
- Be open to saying yes to new approaches to the staging, no to others. Be crystal clear in your communication with other creative in your team.
- Always think ahead. Keep a notebook or computer file with ideas for your next play/s, so you will begin to take yourself seriously as a writer.
I find structure helps me to write. Courses and playwriting groups, mentoring can all aid this process. What works best for you?
Go and see the show if you can, it’s running until 16th July at the Hope Theatre. Book tickets here.
In the 1980’s HIV and AIDS descended and destroyed the lives of many. People were scared and irrational fear and stigma grew. People were treated as outcasts. And then one day, 35 years ago, the most famous woman in the world did something extraordinary, that started a revolution of acceptance and understanding. In that moment, Diana showed the depth of her compassion for others.
Based on personal testimonies, Moment of Grace by Bren Gosling tells the story of this famous visit 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.
To change public misconceptions, would you have risked it? Moment of Grace will make you laugh, cry, get angry, and open your heart.
‘Deeply moving…shocking…heart-breaking.’ ★★★★★ LondonTheatre1
‘A wonderful story. Compelling. Please see it!’ Alison Steadman
Moment of Grace, 28 June – 16 July, The Hope Theatre
For tickets please head to: https://bit.ly/3rFZRpe
Moment of Grace is created by Backstory Ensemble Productions in association with HIVstorytrust (NHST).