Review | First Time – The Ustinov Studio, Bath

ByDonald L. Leech

Feb 16, 2022

This deeply personal journey, from diagnosis to finding a way to live with HIV, is an absolute tour de force.

Nathaniel Hall in First Time | Photo © Andrew Perry

Nathaniel Hall, charged with passion and energy, holds the audience with such care and compassion throughout the evening, a magnetic performer with great talent and charm.

The intimacy of the Ustinov studio is perfect for this tale of courage and northern soul. How would you “come out” at nearly 17 in Manchester in 2003? The pain and grief of the first time with Sam has an initial legacy of shame and fear, but the final moments are one of hope, pride and determination.

The interactive moments are great fun, the candlelit silence extremely moving. The pill-taking scenarios are both grotesque and deeply touching, much like the trauma of the first time when revisited.

Directed by Chris Hoyle, there’s an energy and dynamism that leads to a surprising use of different set pieces, swinging easily from scene to scene with humor and fun.

We never lose sight of the vulnerability of the good days and are compelled to stand by Hall when the going gets tough.

As an autobiographical piece, there is a huge heart at the center of the journey. The resounding sense of hope and future is uplifting and highlights the brilliant advances of modern medicine.

It is hard to imagine more important and vital work to educate and support people affected by HIV or their loved ones.

Perhaps the letter sent back to us could encourage those who are not yet honest or who live in the shadows with those around them to take the risk of opening up. It should be essential viewing for anyone affected by the issues of diagnosis and survivorship.
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Reviewer: Petra Schofield