Arts and Culture

Toxic review: The fallout when two damaged queer hearts collide

Dibby Theatre’s Toxic, currently on at Home, is a haunting and beautiful love letter to the queer experience of passion.

Nathaniel J Hall’s semi-autobiographical play is the story of two souls who are equally damaged trying their best in the face of adversity to live boldly and with pride. 

The evocative performance focuses on themes of homophobia, abandonment, racism and HIV stigma. 

The play follows The Playwright (Nathanial J Hall) and The Performer (Josh-Susan Enright) who meet on Grindr and quickly fall in love. 

The pair are never destined to be together forever but despite that they try their hardest to love unabashedly. 

The Playwright (He/They) is HIV positive and struggles throughout the play to come to terms with the stigma associated with the virus. 

Nathaniel J Hall expertly juxtaposes heavy themes with moments of light comedic relief. 

His performance is eloquent and powerful when telling his story of being HIV positive in a world that views that as a death sentence.

The show is punctuated with Britney Spears references, as the title suggests – which breaks the tension of what is otherwise such a serious play. 

The Performer (They/Them), who is non-binary and mixed race, faces microaggressions and outright racism that shapes who they are and where their anxieties lie. 

Josh-Susan Enright captured the audience in their exploration of abandonment and being ostracised from society because of who they are.

It truly was an electric performance that stayed with the audience after leaving the theatre.

The play beautifully captures the queer desire to be seen and understood, and once you have that, the inability to let it go no matter if it destroys you.

The use of telephones plays a significant part in the play, seemingly representing the trauma both characters hold: the phone rings at inopportune moments, reminding the characters and the audience that they remain unhealed despite finding love and acceptance. 

Hall explained at the end of the performance that he has struggled with whether this is a story the queer community needs.

Yet the message is one that perhaps resonates with a lot of LGBTQIIA+ people.

The queer story cannot always be a happy one but it inspires people to live unashamed of who you are. 

The show partnered with George House Trust, which provides support to people who are HIV positive; Our Room, a creative community for male, trans & non-binary people who sex work; and We are Survivors, which supports male and non-binary victims of rape and sexual assault.  

Toxic runs at HOME’s T2 from 18-28 October 2023 and will be followed by a UK tour in 2024. Tickets can be found here.

Images: Nathaniel Hall and Josh-Susan Enright in Dibby Theatre’s Toxic. Image by Dawn Kilner

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