Posted on 16 December 2019.

Posted in: Announcements



BY AL Blyth
DIRECTED BY Roxana silbert
31 january – 7 march

‘Yes, we’re geeks, yes, we sit at computers all day, yes, we barely leave Cheltenham, but we are still, when it comes down to it, spies’ 

Hampstead Theatre today announces casting for the world premiere of Al Blyth’s explosive espionage thriller The Haystack, his first full-length play. Roxana Silbert makes her directing debut as Hampstead Theatre’s Artistic Director with this fast-paced, topical play, which delves into the intriguing world of GCHQ and examines the human impact of national surveillance. When an investigative journalist unearths a controversial lead, loyalties and ethics are tested to the extreme. 

The cast will include Lucy Black as Denise, Oliver Johnstone as Neil, Rona Morison as Cora, Enyi Okoronkwo as Zef and Sarah Woodward as Hannah.

Neil and Zef are two twenty-something computer whizzes with questionable dress sense and a highly developed interest in video games and Netflix. They’re also the UK’s ‘National Defence Information Security Team’ - recruited by GCHQ for their sky-high IQs and ability to work quickly and discreetly, no questions asked.  

With unfettered access to the world’s data and infinite powers of electronic intrusion, these unlikely agents are essential cogs in the national security machine.  But when their window onto intelligence operations shows them more than they were meant to see, they begin to question their roles in a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not…

Lucy Black plays Denise. Theatre work includes Top Girls;Three Winters and Children of the Sun (all National Theatre); The York Realist (Donmar/Sheffield Crucible); Strife (Chichester Festival Theatre); Drawing the Line (Hampstead Theatre); A Taste of Honey (Edinburgh Lyceum); The Only True History of Lizzie Fynn (Southwark Playhouse); Epsom Downs (Salisbury Playhouse); Coram Boy (Bristol Old Vic); Cause Célèbre (Old Vic); The Misanthrope (Bristol Old Vic/Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory); Anthony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus (both Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory); Much Ado About Nothing; Othello; Love's Labour's Lost; Titus Andronicus; The Three Sisters and Twelfth Night; Measure for Measure; A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear (all Tobacco Factory); Mary Barton (Manchester Royal Exchange); One Minute (Bush) and A Tender Prayer; How the Other Half Loves and Seed of the Bauhinia (all Bristol Old Vic). Television work includes Gentleman Jack; The Durrells (Series 1-3); Jericho; Call The Midwife; All At Sea; Grantchester; Doctors (multiple episodes) Holby City (multiple episodes); EastEnders; Vera; Todd Margaret; The Bill; Waterloo Road; Wire in the Blood; The Royal; Bombshell; Murder in Mind and Casualty.

Oliver Johnstone plays Neil. Theatre work includes All My Sons (Old Vic); Imperium (RSC/West End); Tribes (Sheffield Crucible); King Lear and Cymbeline (both RSC/Barbican/BAM); Teddy Ferrara (Donmar); Oppenheimer (RSC/West End); Spring Awakening (Headlong); Another Country (Chichester Festival Theatre) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Regent’s Park). Film work includes Ironbark; On Chesil Beach; The Inbetweeners 2 and Skyfall. Television work includes Loaded; Inspector George Gently; The Syndicate; Little Crackers; Lewis and Whitechapel 3.

Rona Morrison plays Cora. Theatre work includes The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar); Cover My Tracks (Old Vic); The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Southwark Playhouse); Glory on Earth (Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh); Dead Don't Floss (National Theatre); Orca (Southwark Playhouse); Julie (Northern Stage); The Crucible (Bristol Old Vic); Buckets (Orange Tree); Scuttlers (Manchester Royal Exchange); The James Plays (National Theatre); Anhedonia (Royal Court); To Kill a Mockingbird (Regent's Park); The Second Mrs Tanqueray (Rose Theatre, Kingston) and Crave and Illusion (Bush/UK tour). Film work includes Our Ladies; Solo: A Star Wars Story; Ready Player One; The Boy I Loved and Love Bite. Television work includes Decline and Fall and Absentia.

Enyi Okoronkwo plays Zef. Theatre work includes Tartuffe (National Theatre); Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith); The Model Apartment (Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal, Bath); The Cherry Orchard (Bristol Old Vic); Junkyard (Bristol Old Vic/Theatre Clwyd/Rose, Kingston); Boy with Beer (King’s Head); Wonder.Land (MIF/National Theatre) and Arthur's World (Bush Theatre). Film work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Late (short film). Television work includes Giri/Haji.

Sarah Woodward plays Hannah. Theatre work includes Quiz (Chichester Festival Theatre/Noel Coward); This House (Chichester Festival Theatre/West End); Nell Gwynn (Apollo); Richard II;The Merry Wives of Windsor; The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing (all Shakespeare’s Globe); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Gielgud); Bracken Moor (Tricycle); One For Sorrow; Love and Information; Jumpy; Presence and Built on Sand (all Royal Court); Snake in the Grass (The Print Room); Judgement Day (Almeida); Rookery Nook (Chocolate Factory); The Cherry Orchard; Present Laughter; The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other; Wild Oats and The Sea (all National Theatre); Woman In Mind (Salisbury); Habeas Corpus (Donmar); The Real Thing (Donmar/West End/Broadway: Tony Nominee); Tom & Clem (Aldwych/Olivier Award, Best Supporting Actress); Kean (Old Vic/Toronto); London Assurance (Chichester Festival Theatre/Haymarket); Artist Descending a Staircase (King’s Head/West End); A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Macbeth; Arms and the Man and Romeo and Juliet (all Regent's Park); The Tempest; Murder in the Cathedral; The Venetian Twins; Henry V; Love's Labour’s Lost; Red Noses; Camille; Hamlet and Richard III (all RSC). Film work includes Supernova; To Dover; Bright Young Things; I Capture the Castle; Close your Eyes and The House of Angelo. Television work includes Sitting in Limbo; Quiz; The Pale Horse; Queens of Mystery; Endeavour; The Politician's Husband; Loving Miss Hatto; Outnumbered; DCI Banks; Kingdom; Final Demand; Hear the Silence; Poirot; The Cater Street Hangman and Sherlock Holmes.

Al Blyth studied Econometrics & Mathematical Economics at Bristol and L.S.E., before working as a research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In 2006 he was awarded Soho Theatre’s Westminster Prize, for his play Furnace Four. He was selected for the Paines Plough Future Perfect scheme in 2008 and won Channel 4’s 4Talent Prize for Dramatic Writing the same year. Al’s TV show The Rook, a supernatural spy thriller based on the novel by Daniel O’Malley, premiered on the cable network Starz in 2019. He is currently co-writing the book and lyrics for a musical adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, with his writing partner (and wife) Sam Holcroft, and the composer Arthur Darvill. The Haystack is Al’s debut full-length play. Previous short pieces produced in the UK include: Reality and The Poet of Elswick Park (both RSC/Live Theatre); Under My Skin (Paines Plough/Òran Mór); Community Payback (RIFT Theatre); The Abolition Of Death (RSC) and The Hag of Hyde Park (Paines Plough/Globe). 

Roxana Silbert is Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre. She was previously Artistic Director of Birmingham REP and Artistic Director of Paines Plough. She has been Associate Director at the RSC, Literary Director of the Traverse Theatre, and Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre. She’s directed plays for all the above theatres as well as nationally and internationally. 

The Haystack runs on the Main Stage from 31 January - 7 March



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