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It's A Sin star Nathaniel Hall brings his show First Time to the Gulbenkian in Canterbury


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"It was incredible - people are still talking about it," says star of Channel 4's It's A Sin, Nathaniel Hall, about the show's reception.

And for Nathaniel, the positive reaction to the show, which depicted a group of friends living during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, is particularly close to home.

Nathaniel Hall in First Time Picture: Dawn Kilner
Nathaniel Hall in First Time Picture: Dawn Kilner

Nathaniel, who played Donald Bassett in the series which screened earlier this year, has a life story which echoes much of the main character's, Ritchie Tozer.

Diagnosed as HIV+ two weeks before his 17th birthday and after his first ever sexual experience, Nathaniel kept his diagnosis a secret from his family for almost 15 years until, in 2017 aged 31, he had a breakdown.

After coming out to his family, he went on to write his hit autobiographical play, First Time, with Dibby Theatre, which he brings to Canterbury's Gulbenkian Theatre this week.

He says of writing it: "It was a cathartic experience. It was difficult, but with a positive outcome. Keeping it a secret was impacting on my life in so many ways. I had bought into the idea that it was something to be ashamed of. But I decided to change that story."

Despite the subject matter he said many people who watched it remarked afterwards how much they laughed.

Channel 4 and HBO's It's A Sin was a massive hit with audiences
Channel 4 and HBO's It's A Sin was a massive hit with audiences

"It is really joyful," he said. "We don't often sit and look back at what has happened in our lives and for me it was a bittersweet experience. Sometimes we have to take those scabs off. But it is a really fun show. It is about families and relationships, and discovering yourself, and heartbreak, but there is real hope."

Nathaniel was writing First Time around the same time as It's A Sin writer Russell T Davies was writing the series. He was then invited to audition and was the only openly HIV+ member of the show’s cast.

He said: "Here was an opportunity to tell people on a national scale how HIV has changed, about prevention, and about testing."

As an HIV activitist, he said it was important to break down misconceptions which continue today.

First Time is an autobiographical show Picture: Dawn Kilner
First Time is an autobiographical show Picture: Dawn Kilner
Nathaniel on stage Picture: Andrew Perry
Nathaniel on stage Picture: Andrew Perry

“HIV has changed, but public knowledge lags far behind," he said. "Working alongside our charity partners, myself and the Dibby team are determined to end HIV stigma and shame for good, as well as contribute to the goal of ending all new transmissions of the virus by 2030. We’re thrilled to be back on the road once more using storytelling and creativity to advocate for better representations of HIV in popular culture.”

He said transmission scare stories still perpetuated, when, for instance, the overall risk of transmission from being bitten by an HIV+ person was negligible.

The show is at the Gulbenkian on Saturday, October 9 and Sunday, October 10. Book tickets here.

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Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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