Theatre Critic and Journalist

Column: Unbore Off

Column: Unbore Off

Published in The Stage, 26.07.2014

Unboring. Read it again. Un-bor-ing. That’s the word you’ll find splashed across the front cover of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme: Unboring.

It’s not actually a word at all, of course. You’ll find it in the Urban Dictionary – “a word used by people with no vocabulary” – but I promise you ‘unboring’ hasn’t troubled the linguistic arbiters at the Oxford English Dictionary. Of course it hasn’t. It’s horrible. Look at it. Unboring. Jeez. It’s the sort of marketing babble dreamed up to capture a car or a coffee machine’s philosophy on life. Actually, IKEA used the word in 2003, complete with an umlaut, for it’s Unböring Manifesto, urging consumers to get rid oftheir old crap and buy new flat-pack crap – all of it cheap enough to chuck and replace when you grew tired of it.

What I really object to, though, isn’t the grammatical oddity of the word or its past-life hawking Billy Bookcases. It’s the sentiment underneath. Unboring, if it means anything at all, means ‘Not boring.’ You might as well write: ‘Not bad.’ ‘Could be worse.’ ‘Better than spending August sat on your arse at home.’

Generous readers might go a bit further, accepting the case for unboring as a transitive adjective. To unbore – to reverse or allieviate a state of boredom. “Get Unbored at the Edinburgh festival,” yell the posters on the tube. It sounds like a corrective surgical procedure.

Admittedly, this ‘unboring’ is better; almost – but not quite –  a positive statement. It’s still more about killing time than filling it. Bored people don’t need the Edinburgh Fringe to stop being bored. Bored people will watch whatever’s on tele – Grand Designs or Come Dine With Me or whatever. Bored people will Google quotes about boredom. Boredom is just “the desire for desires.” (Leo Tolstoy)

Lest we forget, the Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. It attracts world-class artists, performers and comedians and a whole heap of next big things waiting to be discovered. It is a place where artists push at the boundaries of their artform, where the biggest risk-takers end up the biggest winners. The Fringe gave us Fry and Laurie, Complicite and Daniel Kitson. It swells Scotland’s capital to twice its usual population and fills it with pop-up bars and restaurants. ‘Unboring’ is the last word on earth I’d use to describe it – even if it was an actual word.

I’d even prefer something that caught the cacophonous lucky dip quality of the Fringe. That, after all, is part of its joy. The first show I saw at my very first festival involved a Scottish bloke dressed in a brown sheet with a brown pillowcase on his head and an undisguised kitchen roll holder on his finger, playing a superhero called ‘Mudfinger,’ capable of turning people into mud. In what possible world is that unboring? Abominable, yes. Cack-handed, absolutely. But unboring? Not in a million years.

Unboring is unsightly, ungrammatical and uninspiring; utterly unworthy of the Edinburgh Fringe.

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