Review: First Time brings the stigma of HIV to a standstill

Nathaniel Hall tells his own story from before diagnosis to finally accepting himself in this outstanding one-man show

“I have HIV” – these are the three words that Nathaniel Hall wants to de-stigmatise through his outstanding one-man show First Time

The production brings the stigma of HIV to a standstill, as he single-handedly tells his own story from before diagnosis to finally accepting himself.

Nathaniel puts shame under a blinding spotlight, as he dissects the way it shapes the lives of those who live with HIV every day.

Throughout the show, the audience will laugh at Nathaniel’s down-to-earth humour, but definitely become emotional as he tells his powerful, truthful, and raw story. 

Photo: Andrew Perry

He gives the audience an almost personal look into the intimate moments of his life.

We are with him when his 16-year-old self meets the older, Will Young doppelganger who unknowingly passes HIV to Nathaniel, we are with him on his ‘underwhelming’ prom night, and we are with him as he is diagnosed with HIV- a raw, and emotionally jerking scene.

Nathaniel can’t forget his first time, as most people might, because it was a time that impacted his life in a way that he could never have imagined; he always felt elements of his first time were romantic with the older, good-looking man, and we see his realisation years later, as he more clearly understands his traumatic experience.

Photo: Andrew Perry

You can sometimes forget that this show is performed solo, as we take a trip through each of the people that Nathaniel has been through his journey to self-acceptance.

Nathaniel brings his amazing, animated personality to the whole performance, and is unapologetically dedicated to shattering the stigma around HIV; the set is small, yet exactly what is needed for this personal story. 

The large, UV triangle in centre stage reminds us of the huge, glowing moral of the story – HIV is not something to be ashamed of.

Nathaniel’s costume choices speak volumes for the development of ‘self’, as he seems to work through different ones a lot, almost as if he is showing his transition from shame, to self-acceptance. 

Photo: Lee Baxter

If I had to pick a quote from the show to sum it up, it would be the four words he says throughout: “what a f*cking mess!”. 

Nathaniel reminds us that sometimes, or most of the time, life is a mess, and that’s ok – because it’s life.

Seeing this production on World Aids Day made for an emotional experience, as Nathaniel made sure to include pictures of those who have lost their lives to the virus.

The audience were offered plastic tealights as we watched the memorial pictures and were each given a private letter as we left the theatre – a gift from Nathaniel himself.

If there is one piece of advice that I could give you this December, it would be to go and see this show.

The unnecessary stigma around HIV is still very much alive, and as Nathaniel aims to show people, the more it’s talked about, the less stigmatised it will be.

First Time is at Contact until Saturday 4th December. Tickets are available here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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