Lorenzo Pacitti

Edinburgh Fringe review: James Cook, Always Be Rolling

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James Cook is on a quest to save the reputation of his beloved board games. A noble quest indeed, and one that the knights that adorn the boxes of one of his favourite games, Carcassonne, would be proud of.

In this wonderfully genuine show, Cook freely indulges his nerdy obsessiveness of the world of board games. His obsession with lists, graphs and most importantly, Will Wheaton, serve him well in doing justice to the hobby and adding colour to him as a performer.

With the help of a fairly basic but welcome PowerPoint presentation, Cook sets about dispelling myths, educating and informing the mostly novice audience all about the subject. It’s rare that someone will have literally no experience of board games, so there is a starting point for everyone in this show.

Cook’s list of childhood board games such as Snakes & Ladders and the merits and faults of each offer a way in for those who have had no experience of board games in years. Conversely, he also indulges the gamers amongst the audience with fawning praise for his favourites and an investigation into the state of modern day gaming.

The show is highly accessible and interesting, but there is a lack of consistency in his gags. He finds more success purely in his observations and unique stage presence. The show includes two games to break up some of the lists and graphs; these aren’t hugely entertaining, but do provide a welcome change of pace to the show. Perhaps an increased level of competitiveness in the chosen games would better lend itself to the nature of the show.

Always Be Rolling is very much worth your time purely as a comedy fan. You don’t need to be well versed in the culture or intricacies of board gaming to have a good time and there isn’t much that Cook doesn’t teach you in the opening 10 minutes that you need to know. Board game fans will leave more than satisfied and some curious attendees may even leave with a renewed interest. I know I did.

Date of live review: 18 August 2014 @ Bar 50

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