With boundless, bouncing energy and a flair for vocal impressions, Arrowsmith takes you on an epically geeky journey of parodies and hilarity. Faced with having to save mankind from total annihilation, more average than average Lucy Raven is faced to come up with a compelling argument as to why we should all be saved. Covering a vast array of material, Arrowsmith astounds with an ability to capture a diverse range of characters with their mannerisms, voices and actions nailed, and if that isn’t enough, the script furnishes these many characters with sharply written and memorable one-liners. The massive range of material leads to some impressions being flatter than others, but this negative is more than overcome by Arrowsmith’s compelling magnetism and hilarious script.
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Featuring somewhere in the region of 50 exquisitely drawn characters, Defender of Earth is an impressive calling card for Gemma Arrowsmith’s acting prowess. As half of sketch duo Mould & Arrowsmith, she’s delivered a series of geeky, intellectually flattering Fringe shows. But this compelling and intricate one-woman narrative engages the heart as well as the brain.
After a none-too-original, but well-executed, spoof of Hollywood trailers, featuring a defiant Florence Nightingale battling war, disease and sexism, Arrowsmith, with an affectionate nod towards Star Trek, establishes her ‘humanity on trial’ storyline.
A call centre drone with no opinions, a useless degree and an unused gym membership, Lucy Raven is completely unremarkable, a self-deprecating slight on her creator but otherwise so average as to make no impression on the world whatsoever.
Yet it’s precisely this averageness that makes her of interest to a superior alien life form, The Jury, who as judge and booming prosecution too, suddenly demands that this mediocre Everywoman defends humanity against charges of barbarism. Drawing upon a fair amount of exposition to get to this point, Arrowsmith nevertheless keeps her tale pacey and the plot’s pot boiling.
Her failure would result in annihilation of the species, so the scene is set for argument and counter-argument, Arrowsmith bringing to life a rich gallery of the exemplary and the less so. Fleetingly, these include the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, Steve Jobs and Cheryl Cole, the latter re-imagined as rigorously challenging the pseudo-science behind her hair product commercials.
In a similar vein, there’s the beauty contestant who resists the bimbo stereotype with a dense, existential argument for why she’s participating in the competition. Generally though, this is about as broad a spectrum of civilisation as you could conceive, including an aggressive, spoilt child, a self-help guru con-artist, a monstrous career woman and a braying pack of desperate publishing executives. One of the more memorable portraits is a touchingly wide-eyed depiction of Laika, the first dog the Soviet Union blasted into space.
Elsewhere, the snapshot of a troubled child packed off to boarding school and a succession of Raven’s brutally critical teachers suggests an intriguing glimpse behind Arrowsmith’s own adolescence. Capable of calling on a dizzying array of accents and leaping between characters with smooth, subtle shifts in mannerism, this is something of a masterclass from a likeable performer who’s never so actorly that she can’t break the fourth wall every now and then to grumble about the difficulty of crafting a particular scene.
Her script would benefit from considerably more gags and you watch rapt for long sequences without laughing. But The Jury’s intimidating starchiness is gradually and amusingly undermined and there’s a deft satirical swipe at recent television output in the UK. Best of all are some lovely, nerdy in-jokes about consumer technology, in particular a running jest about e-publishing developments that Arrowsmith sustains with ingenious wit and admirable commitment to her conceit. When posterity comes to judge her, she’ll be able to look back on this promising solo debut with pride.
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Using an ever increasing smorgasbord of prop-free character performances Arrowsmith attempts to convey everything that is worth (and not so worth) saving about the human race. Many of her scenes are well introduced and blend seamlessly into the basic narrative she’s created, although others appear a little randomly – leaving the audience, at times, slightly bemused.
A high point is an impersonation of the Soviet space dog, Laika, who is one of the most sympathetic personas Arrowsmith adopts. Channelling the magnitude of the historical moment through the naivety of a Moscovian stray is a near perfect idea.
The show definitely processes a certain charm. A reoccurring character is used to question and critically discuss beauty pageants, make-up advertising and the assumption that women can’t understand science – all without losing an inch of the humour.
If you like female comedians (there are still people who don’t like watching women be funny after all), you like science fiction and you don’t mind getting the story getting a bit lost sometimes then let Arrowsmith tell you how an ordinary, average person might go about saving the world.
See original review here
Some members of my audience were kind enough to write me reviews.
We came to see the show on a whim and I am so glad we did as it was brilliant. Exceptionally well written and acted and the best show we’ve seen so far in our week here.
Fast. Funny. Geek-tastic. An absolute treat and a real feat of skill and energy to provide a fabulous one woman show! Brilliantly written with characters you can really form attachments to. Please see this show!
We know Gemma as the fringe’s resident geek but this year she shows herself to be a brilliant character actress, moving from accent to accent and character to character with real skill. The material is funny & Gemma performs it brilliantly. Go see it!
I have been meaning to see one of Gemma Arrowsmith’s shows since seeing a video of hers several years ago on the now defunct constantcomedy.com. I was a little concerned when I saw that this show was part of the Free Fringe, as previous experience has taught me that there’s often a very good reason that these performers decide not charge for their shows… However, in this case I was completely wrong. It was fantastic! The show uses the sci-fi trope of a person having to defend humanity’s existence a to superior being capable of destroying earth. But, this is really just a means of tying together lots of great sketches which illustrate the absurdity of mankind. The sketches are fast paced, intelligent and well acted. Her characterisation is brilliant and she has a real talent for accents and impersonation. I laughed throughout, and being a kindred geek noticed quite a few subtle sci-fi references (I suspect that there were still a few I missed). The show felt short, and nowhere near the hour that it actually was, which to me is a sign of real quality. This was my first of 11 shows that I saw at this years fringe, and it sticks in memory as one warmest, funniest and most inventive.
Gemma was our random pick for the Fringe after finding her flyer in a sandwhich shop and we were in for a true treat. She is fast of wit and also fast of tongue when she gets going and we laughed at her endless mini sketches in her story of saving the world from total destruction by an alien being. A true treat and we were more than happy to donate some money for the hour of giggles we had. She is a little bit geeky, a little bit quirky but so so talented with a sackload of excellent accents! Her Gok Wan was hilarious! Geeks and non geeks alike will enjoy this show! Hope to see her again next year!
This one-person show was the surprise treat of our last day at the 2012 Fringe. The show is clever, well acted and by the end you really feel an attachment to all the different characters played by Gemma. Anyone who is a bit geeky will especially enjoy some of the references but there’s plenty here for non-geeks too.
In brief, do go and see this show. It’s very funny and totally free. Like a number of free shows, there is the option to make a donation at the end. I actually felt happy to give Gemma Arrowsmith some money on the way out. Really. I was happy to hand over money which I was not otherwise obliged to part with. That was mainly because the show made me laugh a lot, but the quality of the laughs was influential too. The writing and performance have a warmth that mean you care, just a little, about some characters by the end of the hour. So, when you laugh, you don’t have to smother your conscience to do so. There’s also an intelligence to the material that elevates it above lazy or safe laughs. Go see it.
The only Free Fringe event we went to was excellent. Gemma Arrowsmith has a very gentle style of humerous sketches, with the occasional sci-fi reference! It’s clever, witty humour and charmingly presented. Highly recommended!
Very pleased with how the show was received, all round.
Am slightly disappointed that Ana Hine, the reviewer from The Skinny, felt the need to include the sentence “if you like female comedians (there are still people who don’t like watching women be funny after all)…”.
The review, after all, was for a woman in the comedy section. There is a photo of me. I have a female name. I don’t think it really needed stating again within the review that this show features a female comedian. It’s not as if any misogynists would have read that far before making up their minds not to see the show. “Oh, well, I was going to see this Gemma Arrowsmith do her comedy show but now the reviewer has warned me there’s a female comedian in it, I’ll definitely give it a miss. Phew, that was close. Thank God that reviewer pointed out this comedy is being performed be a woman. Dodged a bullet, there.” Seriously, just an entirely redundant sentence.
Imagine, also, if the review had read “there are still those who don’t like watching black people be funny after all” or “gay people” or “Jewish people”. Would the review have been printed? Is that considered acceptable? Of course not.
It’s also just shame that this tired argument is still being dragged out. She was only reporting the fact that a prejudice exists among punters (male and female alike) but we’re not going to move past this until all reviewers, male and female, stop reporting the prejudice and just review the material.