The National Theatre doesn't do oldfashioned suspense plays any more; instead anyone who wants a nailbiting Psycho experience is invited to use their online box office. Today was the day tickets went on advance sale to members for David Hare's new play Gethsemane in November. The key point is that the play will be in the small Cottesloe Theatre (why?) and everyone knows it will sell out fast. So after breakfast I log in to the NT website (an old slapper of a website -- I know from bitter experience how she leads you on with a flirty smile and then collapses and heads for the bar when the going gets rough). Step by step the tension mounts as I go from page to page with an agonising wait each time. I manage to click on four of the few remaining tickets for a preview performance (thank you, Java!) and inch my way forward, like Harold Lloyd hanging on from the skyscraper by his fingernails, towards checkout and payment. It gets slower and slower, because everyone else in the chattering classes who wants to see Hare put the knife into New Labour's fundraising scandals is trying to do the same. Would I like to add a donation? No thanks, not this time, I just want to pay before my 20 minutes expires, and there are only 14 minutes left! I click on COMPLETE PURCHASE and there's another agonising wait. The screen goes back to my shopping basket but there's no confirmation of my purchase. A few more clicks and I seem to be logged out. Rats to the National Theatre, I think. Someone else will have bought my tickets by now. I try to log back in and start again but it's impossible. Obviously theatrical people who only rise after ten have donned their dressing gowns and joined the rush for tickets, so nobody can log in. I try calling the box office but the phone is off the hook. The last time this happened was when I tried and failed to get Othello tickets at the Donmar. But I finally got to see that show, and I'm delighted to say that eventually the long-suffering NT box office did pick up the phone to my wife in mid-afternoon and we got our four tickets. It appears that the IT crash stopped anybody from buying anything earlier on, so more tickets were available after lunch than after breakfast. All of which proves that Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on Nicholas Hytner when it comes to staging cliffhangers. But perhaps it's time the NT saved the frazzled nerves of its box office staff and upgraded its website?