Vault Festival: First Time (Studio, The Vaults)

Where

The Vault Festival, Studio at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo. The Studio is the first theatre on the right as you enter the venue.

When

28 Jan – 2 Feb at 6pm. Running time 1 hr 5 min. Then the show goes on tour.

Who

Written and performed by Nathaniel Hall. Produced by Dibby Theatre and Waterside. Directed by Chris Hoyle. Designed by Irene Jade.

What

Nathaniel became HIV+ at the age of sixteen after his first time with an older man he met in a park in Stockport. In 2017 he wrote a play about it about “staying positive in a negative wotld”.

Nathaniel Hall in First Time. Image by Lee Baxter.
Nathaniel Hall in First Time. Image by Lee Baxter.

How

First Time is a one-man show utilising a variety of clothes and props to take us into a very personal story of growing up HIV+ in a world which doesn’t necessarily understand.

As Hall’s warmth and honesty wins us over, we watch as an idealistic young gay man starts out planning for his school prom before his world collapses into diagnosis, stigma, denial and guilt. Yet First Time is not a cry for help but a piece of triumph over adversity and a celebration of survival.

Wickedly funny and openly frank, this is a story of acceptance and rememberance. Old memories, letters to the past, disco glitterballs, and moving moments characterise this powerful piece set in a low key environment with Will Young songs, washes of red light, and a charismatic lead unafraid to engage with his audience and reveal his vulnerability.

Nathaniel Hall in First Time. Image by Lee Baxter.
Nathaniel Hall in First Time. Image by Lee Baxter.

First Time may be small-scale, but whether you were there during the initial AIDS epidemic and the homophobia of the PM Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28, or simply wish to know more about those who survived and those who died, this show will reach you as a well-written piece from one man’s point of view.

The show did make me think at times of the confessional work of Richard Gadd (Monkey See, Monkey Do) but with more audience participation at key moments and less technical wizardry. Hall’s work is nakedly brave and at times disarmingly cheerful. This makes it all the more powerful.

“She saved my life”, Hall says of his NHS nurse. First Time will make you laugh, think, and shed a tear or two. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of HIV+ diagnosis, nor should it, but it leaves with those four letters of HOPE.

Judgement – Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

A definite Wow, and a good first show for my Vault Festival this year.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see First Time.

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1 thought on “Vault Festival: First Time (Studio, The Vaults)

  1. Excellently written review, spot on. I loved the play as well. It needed to be written and was brave to do it.

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