First Time – Pleasance, London

Reviewer: Jamie Barnes

Writer: Nathaniel Hall

Director: Chris Hoyle

Nathaniel Hall’s autobiographical one-man show First Time documents his experience of living with HIV in the modern world. Hall’s performance provides a fresh perspective on living with HIV, bringing an educational side to the emotion and passion that fuel the show. Breaking away from narrative convention, First Time is a character study that shows the honest and flawed nature of humanity.

Hall narrates as he guides the audience through the timeline, starting on the day of his school prom in 2003, following through to his first time having sex, his HIV diagnosis, his work with charities and organisations, and eventually telling his family. Balancing the emotional elements with whimsical monologues, audience interaction, and an almost childlike surrealism, Hall manages to capture the key moments in his life that eloquently display the rawness of his emotions.

As well as reflecting on his own history, Hall makes a point of reflecting on the history of HIV within the LGBTQ+ community, bringing his story into perspective amongst the stories of others, and making an effort to educate through his performance. First Time firmly roots itself in reality, not only in Hall’s telling of his story, but also with the use of soundbites and visuals that are all too familiar for those who have some connection to the situation, such as Margaret Thatcher’s speech on Section 28, or the symbolism of the red ribbon.

While the show holds a witty charm throughout the highs and lows, it also demands an emotional commitment, as it deals with some of Hall’s most vulnerable moments, which are appropriately underscored with over-stimulating sound design, and which put the audience in a first person position to experience the personal sensitivity that Hall shares. Without the commitment from the audience, these emotional beats are at risk of being lost in the surreal nature of the storytelling.

First Time is a vivid and lively story that perfectly balances emotion, education, and entertainment, creating a show that is so personally moving that it will be difficult to forget.

Runs until 13 February 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Emotional, Educational, and Entertaining

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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