Every now and then, there’s a pretty niche Fringe show that caters to my interests perfectly. I’ll enter the theatre with only a slight clue about the themes the show is going to explore, and then feel as if I’m immersed in a performance that draws out and articulates some of the anxieties I’ve been ruminating over. CODED, a show about a female coded AI sexbot, is another show I can add to that list.
Throughout the show, creator and star Erin O’Flaherty assumes the identity of an AI sexbot who is coming to grips with her female coded existence. With this stiff embodiment and performance as an AI machine, O’Flaherty draws on techniques similar to many drag queens, highlighting the constructed representation and performance of femininity (Butler would be proud).
O’Flaherty also engages with other vignettes that explore wider issues. At one point she assumes the role of a ‘health’ teacher lecturing nervously the vagina (while barely being able to say the word). At another she mocks advertisements that sexualise the human body, playing highly suggestive music while she uses the toilet.
The strongest aspects of the show come from moments of funny and unsettling uncanniness, where O’Flaherty utilises lighting cues and sound to compliment performance. A highlight in my viewing experience was a section where she assumes different poses that are labelled as either sexy or slutty.
Generally, CODED explores some interesting, provocative subject matter, and is definitely an excellent entry point for those who haven’t engaged with the ideas before. This show has proven O’Flaherty is a name to look out for.