November 6, 2009

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

The Big Post-Show Boffoonery Blog Post

While I recover from Boffoonery! on Tuesday night, I thought I'd settle down with a nice cup of hot cocoa and write The Big Post-Show Boffoonery Blog Post.

First thing's first: how did it go?

Well, judging by the audience reactions I could hear over the tannoy backstage, and by the stream of Twitter updates that started almost as soon as the curtain went up at 7.30pm, it went down really rather well. Better than we expected. Better than we could have hoped, actually.

There were plenty of big laughs, rapturous applause and a fair amount of enthusiastic cheering. This wasn't nervous laughter or polite applause. People seemed to find it genuinely very funny. And consistently funny throughout a packed and fast-paced two hours.

These are just a few choice quotes from people's Twitter streams afterwards:

"An unexpected appearance from @DaveGorman made last night at #Boffoonery unbelievably amazing! A great show!"

"Absolutely top evening at #boffoonery last night. Was in the second row. If there's another one I'll be there. Thanks 4 laughs."

"Absolutely loved #Boffoonery last night... Many thanks to @bobbyllew @robinince @herring1967 @DaveGorman for the laughs!"

"had a fantastic time last night! Will be blogging about it later on @ITPRO"

"Huzzah! to all involved with @boffoonery (and/or #boffoonery ), brilliant evening and sounds most successful for #bpark"

"Boffoonery -excellent last night ! All good comedy but star for me was Robin Ince -had me in tears in good way :)"

"Simon Singh & Johnny Ball and I saw them (and lots of others) live last night at #Boffoonery (which was a great show)"

"Very much enjoyed @robinince and company at Boffoonery last night. Congrats to all who put it on #boffoonery"

"Had such fun at #boffoonery last night for #bpark. Johnny Ball, what a legend. @stephenfry back in the closet ;-) Well done to all"

"@boffoonery Was such a good night. Good laugh & I will def be looking to visit #bpark in the near future"

...and so on.

It wasn't just the audience who appeared to be having a good time, though. The performers who so generously gave their time to help Bletchley Park seemed to get a kick out of it, too. This is partly because the show - in terms of the scripts, the direction, the stage production, sound, sets, costumes etc - was of a much higher quality than charity gigs tend to be. And great performers enjoy doing good work just as much as great programmers enjoy working on great software.

But it was also because the audience was very smart. Richard Herring, who many believe is one of the best comedians working in Britain at the moment, said on his blog that it was one of the smartest audiences he'd ever played to.

And with people like Dr Sue Black, Ivan Moore, Mike Hill, Peter Camfield, Alan Cameron Wills, Antony Marcano, Kerry Jones and the BBC's Bill Thompson (I love his blog, and he's a thoroughly nice chap, as it turns out) among the throng that's not surprising. This was a VERY smart audience for a comedy gig. We might even have set some kind of record for the highest average IQ of a West End theatre audience ever. Next year we'll get MENSA in to poll everyone as they collect their tickets :-)

So what was the final reckoning? Well, there's still a lot of bean-counting to be done so it may be a few weeks before we know exactly what the profit is. But, if we stayed on budget, and there are good indications that we managed to do that, then it could be in the region of 7-8,000. Which is a profit of about 40% - unheard of for a show like this, I'm reliably informed. It won't change their world overnight, but I know the Bletchley Park Trust will be able to put that money to very good use.

On top of that, the raffle (first prize was a ZX Spectrum signed by Sir Clive Sinclair himself - listen to Sir Clive discussing it on raised another 1,140.

The show was recorded by a very professional sound engineer and his team, and if all goes to plan, you'll be able to download highlights from iTunes or buy it on CD from the Bletchley Park Trust for about a fiver before the year's out. We hope it will raise a few thousand pounds extra, and it will also let all of you who couldn't get to London or who couldn't get tickets to share in the fun and help BP into the bargain.

So who were our "boffoons"?

Photography by Clive Flint, except Stephen Fry by Johnny Boylan

We were so very lucky to get such an impressive line-up. Pretty much everyone we asked said "yes" and was so generous with their time.

The talent on display behind the scenes was equally impressive.

Comedy writer James Cary had the original idea to do a comedy show to help Bletchley Park and has been actively steering the production since we first met in a coffee shop way back in March. James pulled out all the stops to deliver scripts that were of a quality above and beyond the call of duty. He's a very busy man writing and script-editing for TV and radio, and it's fantastically nice of him to literally give away top material like this.

The show was brilliantly directed by veteran comedy producer David Tyler of Pozzitive Television, who is also a very nice man and probably has a million other things to do at the moment, so we're so very grateful that he put his heart and soul into delivering a tight, fast-paced and very funny show. Several of our boffoons remarked on how impressed they were with his direction, and they should know!

The whole thing was expertly held together by our stage producer, Bethan Richards, also from Pozzitive. I was mightily impressed. I think we all were. Beth played the pivotal role in creating a high-class show under enormously tight budget and time constraints. If she had been one of the Wachowski brothers, The Matrix Revolutions would have cost under $100 and looked twice as good, I'm sure. Someone should put her in charge of Connecting For Health.

Stage Manager Helen Morant did a truly fantastic job making sure everybody and everything was exactly where they/it needed to be. The show pretty much went without a hitch, and with very limited rehearsal time.

We were ably supported by experienced theatre professional Hugh de la Bedoyere as our general manager, who provided desperately needed advice and due diligence to compensate for my frightening lack of experience in producing a stage show. We could have walked into some real gotchas without Hugh's input.

Authentic period costumes were very generously loaned to us by Allied Assortments, who a few of you may have seen putting on a 1940's fashion show at Bletchley Park in September. Being able to dress our performers in period garb really added to the atmosphere, and made for some great photo opprtunities, too. We simply could not have afforded to make or hire costumes that would look that good, so we're deeply grateful.

A big thank you, too, to photographer Clive Flint, who stepped in at very short notice and did such a marvellous job of capturing the event.

We're massively grateful to Simon Baker and Gus Power from, without whose generous sponsorship we might even have made a loss. They're two really nice guys, and damn fine software developers, and I was so pleased to have such cool backers for the show.

So what next?

Well, keep an eye out for news about the audio download here, on and on Twitter (@boffoonery), as well as potential updates on a possible "Boffoonery 2.0".

Posted 11 years, 2 months ago on November 6, 2009