Punk Alley by Moxie Brawl is a hit

Words by Bengi-Sue Sirin.

On Valentine’s Day, at 2pm, the audience at The Place Theatre was rather raucous. Shouting, giggling, bouncing around… and under 10 mostly. With parents and grandparents enthusiastically in tow, waiting for Moxie Brawl, a self-proclaimed (and rightfully so, too!) ‘spicy inclusive dance theatre who make inclusive work that your mum would love.’ I sort of managed to blend in between two friendly families, neither of whom questioned the fact that I, a 29 year old child-free woman, had come alone. Despite obvious factors like: children’s show, half term etc, I wanted to come because I love punk, BSL, and all things spicy. Which Moxie Brawl’s latest offering, Punk Alley, had in spades!

The premise of Punk Alley was this: five friends, led by Moxie Brawl frontwoman Sarah Blanc, who form a band to in their words, ‘make some noise.’ Six if you include Emilie Sands the fabulous BSL interpreter. Whose energy and attitude make her a perfect candidate for interpreting, ironically, Six the Musical. She is terrific, immersed within the show very naturally. 

Moxie Brawl introduce themselves to us one-by-one, pointing out traits that mark them as unique in the direct and innocent way of children that, removed from the nasty adult world of intolerance and exclusion, make perfect sense. One performer is ‘neither a boy nor a girl, but always the tallest person in the band!’ Another is a wheelchair-using drummer who can pull funny faces. Sands is interpreting ‘so that everyone can understand!’ This, combined with the lyrics of their songs, determine one thing that Punk Alley is masterful at: gently introducing children to non-normative concepts, such as non-binary, differently-abled, BSL users, even feminism… And all to tunes as catchy as any John Waters film! I think especially of 1990s Cry-Baby with the outcast punks (but very cool) also known as ‘drapes.’ Hip to be square – not in Punk Alley!

Image by Rosie Powell.

The show caters excellently to children and people with different needs. From the encouragement of audience participation (Blanc in particular is terrific at responding to the random comments and requests of young enthusiasts), to the explosion of colours on stage, there is always something to do, see, or watch. Particularly popular is an enormous structure made from assorted teddies and fairy lights, like Nelson’s Column designed by Jojo Siwa. We learn it is a barometer with a purpose of its own, and along with Moxie Brawl’s guidance, we strive to please the barometer and cause it to emit cute electronic gurgles of happiness. As the show progresses we learn that the lesson the barometer truly wants for us is the importance of listening to one another. But not in a twee, preachy way. Moxie Brawl are anything but. Punk Alley just sort of took us there, naturally. 

And the show is not without its little knowing winks at the older audience members, too. There were plenty of moments that caused adult chuckles. One song listed the rungs of what I call the life ladder – study, apprenticeship (unpaid of course), job, marriage, kids… And ended with a deadpan ‘drown in debt.’ One for the parents at the back! 

And it wasn’t only a spectacle of songs or signs… There were some powerful moments of dance, too. Fabric-wielding streams of movement across the stage. Defiant monster-shaped prowls with silly faces. Even flowy and graceful short sequences… Followed by flips and flops. Always fun, never boring! I thought the dancer Armanah Ufuoma Cleopatra especially stood out. But Punk Alley is more than just a dance or a music show – it is a call to arms for kids! I know I would have loved it as a child. And the fact that I still loved it at 29 says a lot for its strength of character. Going back to that Moxie Brawl description of ‘inclusive work that your mum would love’… I can definitely endorse this!