Born and raised in Stockport, Hall draws inspiration from his personal experiences and the vibrant LGBTQ+ community of the city.
Toxic By Nathaniel Hall
In this interview, we delve into the creative process behind “Toxic,” and discuss the themes of a much-awaited piece of theatre.
He candidly discusses the importance of humour, resilience, and the need for open conversations about LGBTQ+ issues and HIV stigma.
“Toxic,” is a deeply personal exploration of toxic relationships and resilience.
He shares the inspiration behind the play, which draws from his own experiences and those of others.
From ‘First Time’ to ‘Toxic’
He reflects on his earlier work, “First Time,” and the pivotal moments that led him to create a theatrical narrative addressing shame, self-stigma, and the complex dynamics of toxic relationships.
“The play resonated with many people as it tackled the stigma around HIV, which many in our community carry.
“However, my personal life took a hit, especially during the pandemic.
“I had just left a five-year intense and chaotic relationship, and it felt like a whirlwind of emotions and confusion.
“I wanted to reflect on this and understand why I allowed myself to be mistreated and why I also mistreated my partner.
“It was a two-way street. So, I began researching and reading books like Matthew Todd’s “Straight Jacket,” which delves into these issues.
Escaping Toxic Relationships
Speaking with friends and colleagues, Nathaniel discovered many LGBTQ+ individuals have found themselves in toxic and codependent relationships.
Statistics today show high rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and domestic abuse in the LGBTQ+ community, and this is what prompted him to explore these themes.
“My play, “Toxic,” isn’t about seeking revenge on my ex. It’s a fictional story that aims to compassionately examine the dynamics in such relationships. It’s about trying to understand how we survive and thrive.
Nathaniel is a passionate advocate for education around HIV, after his diagnosis at 16 years old.
Incredible Manchester Charities
“Toxic” has been produced with the help of three incredible charities:
George House Trust is an HIV support organisation based in Manchester. George House Trust is a prominent charity that provides a range of services and support for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
We Are Survivors Manchester is a survivor-focused voluntary sector organisation that aims to create and facilitate safe spaces for male (including trans and non-binary individuals) survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester providing access to quality-assured support.
Men’s Room – a creative community for male, trans and non-binary people who sex work.
U=U and Modern HIV Prevention
“There’s a focus on promoting HIV prevention methods like PrEP and U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), which are essential.
“But it’s not just about the medical aspect; it’s about addressing the emotional and social issues surrounding HIV.
“The play is set in 2016, a time when these HIV prevention methods gained prominence.
“It also looks at the compound traumatic impact of an HIV diagnosis and the fear that gay and bisexual men disproportionately face.
“This fear has persisted since the 1980s, alongside the homophobia linked to it.
“We don’t create enough spaces to discuss what it means to live with HIV or how to empower ourselves while on PrEP.
“PrEP is a game-changer in HIV prevention, but it can’t solve the emotional and societal challenges we face due to stigma or lack of proper sex education.”
“Toxic” portrays two seemingly well-adjusted characters on the surface, but beneath, they struggle with unspoken issues that affect their relationship.
Set in Manchester 2016, in the middle of a hot and sweaty queer warehouse party, two damaged hearts collide.
He is white, HIV+, and drowning in shame.
They are queer, and one microaggression away from a full-on breakdown.
Born at the height of the Aids epidemic and growing up in the shadow of Section 28, the pair form a trauma bond so tight they might just survive it all. But sometimes survival means knowing when to leave.
It promises to be a fantastic watch.
“Toxic” marks Nathaniel’s first return to the stage since ‘First Time’, which was highly rated with a brilliant reception.
He said: “As for returning to the stage after “First Time,” I’m excited.
“I’ll be performing alongside the incredible actor Josh-Susan Enright who has been instrumental in the script’s development.
“We have a large team working on this production, which is a significant step up from my previous work.
“The show features new music by SHAR, a local beat producer, and incorporates audio-visual projections by Dede, one of the White Hotel’s resident visual mixers.
“We also have a talented team working on set design and movement direction. It’s both exciting and slightly daunting.”
Finding Humour in Drama
Despite addressing some heavy subject matter, Nathaniel says that there’s lots of humour added into the drama too.
He said: “In terms of what I hope people take away from the play, it might seem intense on the surface, but there’s humour in the darkest places.
“Amongst the drama in the show, it also features the sexiest Macarena you will ever see, and if that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is!
“Just like “First Time,” which surprised many with its humour, “Toxic” explores complex and difficult themes while using humour to cope.
“I think we all to some extent cope with the trauma with humour and laughter.
“We also face higher rates of depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, and drug use, and these issues are not our fault, it’s the fall out from growing up in a profoundly heterosexist society.’
“We also face higher rates of depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, and drug use, and these issues are not our fault.
“It’s essential to address them and provide support and compassion for ourselves and others. We should embrace our resilience as a community.”
Is Manchester LGBTQ+ Friendly?
Nathaniel believes that Manchester is one of the more LGBTQ+-friendly cities in the UK, but conceded that there’s still work to be done.
He said: “LGBTQ+ people are visible in large numbers across the city centre and that fosters a sense of safety, but I think many of us think twice before holding hands or showing same sex affection in the smaller satellite towns of Greater Manchester
“The show emphasises that while acceptance has come a long way, there are still disparities in LGBTQ+ mental health and well-being that need attention.
“The play also addresses racism, colourism, and toxic gender norms within the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s not just about LGBTQ+ individuals being “broken”; it’s about the society we live in and how it impacts us.”
Toxic promises to be a powerful and thought-provoking theatrical experience.
Through his semi-autobiographical exploration of toxic relationships and resilience, Nathaniel sheds light on vital issues within the LGBTQ+ community, including HIV stigma, mental health challenges, and the need for open conversations.
As Nathaniel takes the audience on a journey through the complex dynamics of two seemingly well-adjusted characters, he highlights the importance of empathy, support, and self-compassion.
“Toxic” is not just a play; it’s a testament to the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and a call for continued progress in creating safer and more inclusive spaces for all.