A HAMPSTEAD THEATRE WORLD PREMIERE

THE HAYSTACK

By AL BLYTH
Directed by ROXANA SILBERT

Running time: 2 HOURS AND 45 MINUTES INCLUDING AN INTERVAL

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

Main Stage

Choose a date and select your own seats online

31 Jan - 7 Mar 2020

Box Office: 020 7722 9301

'Searingly theatrical... This pacy, brainy surveillance thriller should be widely watched' | ★★★★ Guardian

'A gripping thriller about how we’re ‘protected’ that deserves packed houses at Hampstead, possibly a transfer, and maybe even a TV spin-off…Roxana Silbert – making her debut production as Hampstead’s artistic director – has found a play that is genuinely for today'
| ★★★★ Telegraph

'Intelligent and witty… It’s rare to see a good thriller on stage, let alone one that connects convincingly with the concerns of our tech-riven age. Roxana 
Silbert’s production is beautifully acted, on a handsome set by Tom Piper that mixes the figurative with the realistic.’ | Times

'[A] sharp contemporary play about the way we live and what we value.' The Financial Times 

'Whip-smart new thriller - grips like a vice…' | ★★★★ The Stage

'A fascinating examination of how technology has overtaken what is legally allowable in terms of prying into the lives of others in the name of protecting the nation… This is meaty, compelling stuff…' | Whatsonstage


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…

Al Blyth’s explosive espionage thriller challenges the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ mantra and explores how we can live honestly, love freely, and stay authentic when the advances in cutting-edge technology outpace the law.

The Haystack is Blyth’s first full-length play and Roxana Silbert makes her directing debut as Hampstead Theatre’s Artistic Director. 

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.

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  • The Guardian

    'Al Blyth’s debut play explores how far into the lives of citizens a state can pry, and the effects on the snoopers themselves'

    'After the movie Official Secrets, about the Observer’s engagement with a GCHQ whistleblower, comes Al Blyth’s debut play The Haystack, in which a fictional Guardian reporter and home affairs editor deal with a leak raising multiple ethical issues. In Official Secrets, the dangerous information came from the state snooping centre in Cheltenham; in The Haystack two junior spooks at GCHQ, nerdy Neil and laddish Zef, are charged with finding out where Guardian writer Cora is getting her scoops about Middle East politics.'

    '...Roxana Silbert’s staging becomes searingly theatrical in scenes that dramatise the double lives of spies by having characters simultaneously conducting conversations in different locations. John le Carré himself might admire the standout dialogue in which a spy dumps his partner during a row in which lies and truths hide behind each other.'

    'Rona Morison, superb in the Donmar’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, excels again as the gutsy but too trusting Cora. Oliver Johnstone and Enyi Okoronkwo, as the sneak-geeks, convey the painful moral consequences of voyeurism, even when it’s for work. Lucy Black’s high-up hack and Sarah Woodward’s top spook occasionally seem too similar in their ambitious pragmatism but a sly point may be intended about the overlaps between newspapers and the state. This pacy, brainy surveillance thriller should be widely watched.'

    The Haystack review - brainy GCHQ surveillance thriller
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  • The Telegraph

    '...Al Blyth’s debut full-length play, a gripping thriller about how we’re ‘protected’ that deserves packed houses at Hampstead, possibly a transfer, and maybe even a TV spin-off.'

    'The Haystack plays out as a dark, twisty love-story with complex ethical and intellectual ramifications.'

    'The evening fizzes with wit, buzz-words and teched-up references and has a busy visual vocabulary to match: Tom Piper’s set conjures a cluster of interiors without demarcating walls; the actors step between spaces to accentuate the collapse of boundaries between the digital and real. The smart use of video, plus projected online exchanges, further adds to the sense that Roxana Silbert – making her debut production as Hampstead’s artistic director – has found a play that is genuinely for today.'

    '...Blyth draws us into a human quest for connection set against an impersonal world of escalating mistrust. Among a fantastically cohesive, seven-strong cast, Rona Morison shines as the idealistic, headstrong journalist, while Olivier Johnstone’s Neil combines boyish enthusiasm with premature sagacity about the dystopian direction of travel - and what our brave new world might have meant for past leaps forward. “If we’d known every railing [the suffragettes] were going to chain themselves to, ahead of time – would they have managed a single successful protest?” he asks. Good question; it needs an answer.'

    The Haystack review, Hampstead Theatre: a gripping, twisty love-story for the Snowden generation
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  • The Stage

    'Roxana Silbert became artistic director of Hampstead Theatre eight months ago, but this is the first production she has tackled herself. It’s a smart choice, a tense technological thriller from Al Blyth that raises pertinent questions about the implications of state surveillance.'

    'The drama... grips like a vice.'

    'Oliver Johnstone and Rona Morison are highly impressive in the central roles, and their chemistry fizzes. Enyi Okoronkwo captures Zef’s paradoxical mix of creepiness and high-mindedness, while Lucy Black and Sarah Woodward fittingly mirror each other as the conflicted Guardian editor and overbearing GCHQ boss.'

    'Tom Piper’s neatly overlapping design incorporates several large screens, which drop in and out of the action.'

    '...considering this is Blyth’s first full-length play it is extremely accomplished, and waves urgent red flags about how quickly good intentions in our ultra-connected age can go very badly wrong. It certainly bodes well for Silbert’s tenure.'

    The Haystack review at Hampstead Theatre, London – ‘whip-smart new thriller’
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Artistic team

WRITER

AL BLYTH

DIRECTOR

ROXANA SILBERT

Designer

TOM PIPER

COSTUME

EMMA CAINS

LIGHTING

RICK FISHER

SOUND DESIGN & COMPOSITION  

BEN AND MAX RINGHAM

VIDEO

DUNCAN MCLEAN

MOVEMENT

WAYNE PARSONS

CASTING

JULIET HORSLEY CDG

Cast

THE HAYSTACK: ★★★★ FROM THE TELEGRAPH

Posted on 9 February 2020

Dominic Cavendish awards Al Blyth's The Haystack four stars.

THE HAYSTACK - PRESS NIGHT PHOTOS

Posted on 7 February 2020

Thursday 6 February brought Press Night for Al Blyth's explosive espionage thriller The Haystack, directed by Roxana Silbert.

THE HAYSTACK: ★★★★ FROM THE GUARDIAN

Posted on 7 February 2020

Mark Lawson awards Al Blyth's 'The Haystack' four stars.

THE HAYSTACK: ★★★★ FROM THE STAGE

Posted on 7 February 2020

Theo Bosanquet awards Al Blyth's The Haystack four stars.

THE UPCOMING INTERVIEWS THE HAYSTACK'S OLIVER JOHNSTONE AND RONA MORISON

Posted on 3 February 2020

The Upcoming interviews The Haystack actors Oliver Johnstone and Rona Morison about their roles in Al Blyth's explosive espionage thriller.

HAM AND HIGH INTERVIEW THE HAYSTACK'S AL BLYTH

Posted on 24 January 2020

Bridget Galton interviewsThe Haystack writer Al Blyth.

THE HAYSTACK FULL CAST ANNOUNCED

Posted on 16 December 2019

Full casting for the world premiere of The Haystack by Al Blyth, directed by Roxana Silbert in her directorial debut as Artistic Director.

NEW SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT

Posted on 23 July 2019

Ahead of its 60th Birthday, Hampstead Theatre announces Roxana Silbert’s inaugural season as Artistic Director

2019 New Season Offer

Posted on 23 July 2019

For a limited time only, you can see all four new Main Stage productions in Roxana Silbert's debut season for the price of three - yes, see one show entirely for free!

Roxana Silbert's Debut Season: Statement

Posted on 23 July 2019

‘I am excited to introduce my debut season as Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre.

Previews, Mondays and matinees 
Full price: £30/£27/£18
Under 30s/Students: £15/£10
Seniors* (matinees only): £25/£20
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free
Access: £16

*Ages 60+

Tuesday – Saturday evenings 
Full price: £37/£32/£25
Under 30s/Students: £15/£10
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free
Access: £16

All prices are subject to change. Book early for the best price.

Video and Image Gallery

Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Sarah Woodward (Hannah) Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Sarah Woodward (Hannah)
Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Rona Morison (Cora), Sarah Woodward (Hannah) & Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Rona Morison (Cora), Sarah Woodward (Hannah) & Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef)
Rona Morison (Cora) Rona Morison (Cora)
Lucy Black (Denise) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Lucy Black (Denise) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef)
Al Blyth (Writer) & Roxana Silbert (Director) Al Blyth (Writer) & Roxana Silbert (Director)
Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise) Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise)
Oliver Johnstone (Neil) & Rona Morison (Cora) Oliver Johnstone (Neil) & Rona Morison (Cora)
Sarah Woodward (Hannah) Sarah Woodward (Hannah)
Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Lucy Black (Denise) Lucy Black (Denise)
Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise) Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise)
Roxana Silbert (Director) Roxana Silbert (Director)
Al Blyth (Writer) Al Blyth (Writer)
Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Al Blyth (Writer) & Roxana Silbert (Director) Al Blyth (Writer) & Roxana Silbert (Director)
Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef), Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise) Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef), Rona Morison (Cora) & Lucy Black (Denise)
Lucy Black (Denise) Lucy Black (Denise)
Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Rona Morison (Cora) Rona Morison (Cora)
Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Sarah Woodward (Hannah) Sarah Woodward (Hannah)
Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef)
Sarah Woodward (Hannah), Oliver Johnstone (Neil) & Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) Sarah Woodward (Hannah), Oliver Johnstone (Neil) & Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef)
Lucy Black (Denise) Lucy Black (Denise)
Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef), Sarah Woodward (Hannah) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef), Sarah Woodward (Hannah) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil)
Rona Morison (Cora) Rona Morison (Cora)
Rona Morison (Cora) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil) Rona Morison (Cora) & Oliver Johnstone (Neil)