First Time: Nathaniel Hall presented by Dibby Theatre and Waterside Arts
What is it?
Fresh from a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Nathaniel Hall’s First Time is a one-man piece of theatre based on Hall’s own experience of living as a HIV+ queer man.
What is it about?
First Time carries the audience through Hall’s life from being a closeted sixteen-year-old in Stockport and having his first gay relationship, through his diagnosis and attempts to cope with his new reality, to his eventual ability to tell his parents and use his diagnosis to educate and empower others.
How did it make me feel?
Imagine if someone mixed Skins, copious quantities of undisclosed white powder and gin with the décor of the Ikea showrooms. (No shade. Who doesn’t like Ikea?) Does it sound like a weird mix? Does it also sound messy and funny and tragic and heart-warming? You’ve got First Time.
Much like anyone’s ‘first time’, Hall’s recollection of his first gay relationship in the summer after secondary school is a mess of naivety and idealism mixed with some misguided decision-making. While some of us were lucky enough that our sixteen-year-old romantic misadventures didn’t result in any life-altering diagnoses, more of us than we would like can probably relate to the confusion of thinking it was romantic when adulthood and hindsight has since enlightened us to how problematic our first times really were. But it’s not all serious and heart-breaking.
While Hall’s show is certainly a moving exploration of vulnerability and strength, it’s also hilarious. Whether it’s learning to accept our “Britney circa 2007” moments, dipping into the “adult pick and mix” of condoms and lube at your local sexual health clinic or shamelessly crushing on Will Young, First Time is all kinds of relatable in the honest and semi-grim way you most certainly are with your best mate.
Another glorious moment is Hall’s touching tribute to the wonder that is the NHS and his celebration of everyone’s own personal Sue (also known as that kindly, semi-maternal sexual health nurse who has probably saved your life a few times).
Now an adult and much more comfortable with his diagnosis than he was as a teenager, Hall’s show thanks the amazing medical professionals who support those living with HIV, while remembering those we have lost to AIDS, and aims to educate and end the stigma around HIV+ people.
I advise you to dodge the silly string.
First Time is playing at Studio, The Vaults (Leake Street, Waterloo) until the 2nd February 2020.
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