Friday 22 June 2012

Henry V at the Globe

Saw a terrific production of Henry V at the Globe on Wednesday. Unusual - but really no reason - to have a female chorus. And when she said 'this wooden O' (about thirty seconds in) my eyes filled with tears to think that once again it was literally true.

I didn't know the actor - we don't really watch television apart from the odd thing on iPlayer - but Henry himself was terrific. He was very good at conveying the physical effort: lots of wiping of brow, wincing at bruised hands, and so on. And good at doing the thinking between scenes, so they developed without words. And those tricks like coming in before the other person has stopped - because you're not meant to know exactly how much the other person is going to say. But more importantly, he brought the words to life and said them as though he understood them, and they were relevant, without losing the poetry. The set pieces were truly inspiring - I felt moved to cheer louder than I ever have at the Globe, and standing in the yard is a great inducement to cheering. I wanted to boo the French, too, but nobody else did. (I also laughed at a few jokes that nobody else did - not use whether that betokens great subtelty in my understanding of Shakespeare's lanugage, or simply reflects how many of the audience don't have English as a first language.)

The actor playing Katherine was lovely in her first scene, but almost the only quibble I had with the production was that she didn't yield enough to Henry's courting. I'm sure you could make a strong case that the character wouldn't; but dramatically, I felt it needed her surrender as a princess to reflect the surrender of the country. But I like the way that the concluding dance often supplies a consummation that hasn't had quite enough time to play out in the drama. That's one of the many things I like about the Globe.

Another is the interval treats. They've always done nice nibbles and things. This time there were very classy burgers, and some good-looking frankfurters. Cider at £5.90 a bottle seemed a bit much, though.

What I don't like is the website, which in the many years I've been using it has never had some fundamental usability flaws fixed. Find the play you want to see, find the date you can go, click Book tickets.... and start again from scratch. Do you want the Theatre, Education, Globe on tour? Oh, come *on*! It's as rubbish a user journey as you could hope for.. What could be worse than taking a user who's made a decision to buy, and forcing them two steps back in the process?

Get over that hump and you face a larger one. Your £5 ticket has a £2.50 transaction fee. Splutter! Some theatres - such as Cambridge Arts Theatre - host outside productions, and the booking fee is the only way to get their percentage - apparently, though it's another one of those things that you'd have thought they could equally just bloody well sort out among themselves, frankly. But the Globe has its own company and does its own productions. It has the same layout and ticket prices for every single play, so far as I know, so there's no reason why the ticketing process should be so frightfully complicated that it has to be subcontracted to an outside agency who'd have to take their rake-off. So why the fifty percent surcharge?

I asked at the box office when I collected my ticket, and the person there said "It's a transaction fee." For what transaction, I asked - using a credit card? That's only ten percent. "It's a transaction fee."But you don't have a ticket agency - "It's a transaction fee." (At this point the person next to me said "It's not worth it, they're just robots.") The staff member said "You don't pay it if you book by phone." And I said "WHAT??? I phone you up and use up your time and I don't pay, or I do it all by myself and you charge me a whacking great fee? What the hell are you doing?" "It's a transaction fee."

So there you are. Don't use their website: it costs fifty percent more than talking to a human being. Insane. And how stupid, that such a great institution should have one big fat lump of idiocy that sours the whole experience - which, apart from that, is stupendous.

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