The Wham! classic Club Tropicana blasts out of the speakers as the audience takes seats in the Cairns Lecture Theatre in Summerhall. Nathaniel Hall is onstage and wearing a dressing gown. We have caught him on the morning after the night before and he looks flustered and anxious. We are present as Nathaniel gives a history of his life as a gay man and how he was diagnosed with HIV. The performance uses comedy and spoken word storytelling to great effect, where the performer’s life is dissected in a heartfelt and passionate way.
Audience interaction is a major element of First Time. Due to Nathaniel being an inviting and encouraging performer, this never feels awkward or jarring. The audience gets the chance to take part in a game where we attempt to guess the most likely way to pass on HIV to another person. This section underlines the importance of the show and that Nathaniel has the ability to both educate and entertain at the same time. Here we learn the importance of being aware of your own and your partner’s sexual health. We also understand the importance of the drug PrEP and why it should be made freely available.
Pop Idol winner Will Young is omni-present throughout First Time. The pop power ballad Evergreen provides a soundtrack to important moments in Nathaniel’s life and the rise of the gay pop star seems to mirror Nathaniel’s own transcendence as a confident queer man. We learn that a support group in Manchester gives him a safe place to meet similar people and grants him the confidence to tell his own story and shake off the shame and anxiety that came along with his diagnosis.
The performance ends with a poem in which Nathaniel expresses his emotions and his hope for the future. The word ‘hope’ occurs throughout First Time and it is the perfect note to end a powerful and passionate performance on.