The Haystack

The Haystack

Hampstead Theatre · 31 JAN - 12 MAR

Extended to 12 March due to popular demand

Lyn Gardner avatar
30 January 2020  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“Often, when a new Artistic Director takes over a theatre they direct the opening play. But, perhaps wisely, Roxana Silbert has taken her time, programming shows by other directors, before she herself steps up to the plate. Her play of choice is Al Blyth’s thriller which looks at the shadowy world of GCHQ. When two young people with advanced tech skills are recruited by the intelligence services they become an essential part of UK national security. But what is the price we all pay for national security? And what impact does widespread surveillance have on people’s lives? When the pair see more than they are supposed to, loyalties are tested.”


"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."

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.

Critic reviews

A chilling surveillance state thriller

The Arts Desk

The Haystack has such a pace and cinematic sweep that the near three-hour running time barely registers


A GCHQ analyst meddles in the life of the woman he’s spying on in this teatime drama-y debut from Al Blyth

Time Out

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

The Guardian

Whip-smart new thriller

The Stage

It doesn't take long for the audience to recognise this play's stinging relevance for these worrying times

Broadway World

A gripping, twisty love-story for the Snowden generation

The Telegraph

Flawed theatre that makes you think


Snappy, engaging, and in the end a little shallow


Sscorchingly delivered exposé of our national security eavesdroppers

London Box Office

It is a production that presents thrills, chills and a fabulous start of the year for the Hampstead Theatre

The Upcoming

Thoroughly misconceived hacker play is riddled with cliché

Evening Standard

Date & time

Until 12 Mar
Fri 31 Jan - Thu 12 Mar, 2.30pm, 3pm & 7.30pm


Hampstead Theatre
Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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