Nathaniel Hall’s show, First Time, is currently showing at The Ed Fringe. He took part in one of our Fringe Q & As to tell us more about himself and his show.
AT: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…
NH: I’ve been making theatre for 10 years. I originally trained as a performer but fell more into direction, dramaturgy, facilitation and arts marketing roles. I was playing it small because of the big secret I’d been hiding since age 16…
AT: Tell us about your show, what is it about…
NH: First Time is a hilarious and heartbreaking autobiographical solo show about staying positive in a negative world. When I was 16, I contracted HIV from the first person I had sex with – talk about unlucky. I kept it a secret from my family for 14 years, until in 2017, I had a Britney-style meltdown (I didn’t shave my hair off though) and decided to do what any self-respecting person would do, turn it into a show and perform my trauma to audiences night after night. It’s been an amazingly cathartic experience for me and has revolutionised my self worth.
AT: What inspired it?
NH: I made a show with Contact Young Company a few years back about sex and sexuality. These young artists were so bold and brave talking so frankly and openly about love, sex, desire… I knew I had to step up to the plate. Plus, I didn’t see people like me (living healthy lives with HIV) represented in popular culture so I wanted to put a new narrative centre stage – Tom Hanks in Philadelphia just won’t cut the mustard anymore! (Great film btw).
AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?
NH: One audience member said: ‘I laughed, I cried laughing, and then I just cried.’ It’s a real rollercoaster of emotions but I make sure my audience feels safe to go to difficult places. Hopefully you’ll learn something about HIV prevention too. We’re partnered with HIV Scotland for the festival and we’re helping them (and other charities) in their bid to end all new HIV transmissions by 2030 – it’s ambitious, but with new strategies, medications and increased access to testing, it’s totally possible.
AT: Describe the show in 6 words…
NH: Hilarious, heartbreaking, universal, moving, educational and urgent.
AT: How are you feeling about embarking upon the Edinburgh Fringe? What are you hoping for?
AT: Terrified and excited in equal measure. There is so much amazing work and talent in the city at this time of year! But I keep reminding myself who I made the piece for – anyone who is living in shame and fear, particularly people living with HIV who are stigmatised and discriminated against horrifically. Before each show I have a mantra that says: this is for you, no more shame, no more blame… you’re enough.
Venue 26, Summer Hall, 16:15, Aug 15-18, 20-25 Book Now
Photo © Dawn Kilner