AS French circus company Circa Tsuica set up camp in the The Lowry Plaza ahead of their new show Now or Never with the MAPAS Jazz Band we talk to co-director and performer Tom Neal and workshop leader and performer Baptiste Bouquin about the show...

First of all, what is Now or Never all about? What are you trying to achieve with the show?

Tom: Our first aim is to create a really great link between us and the audience - but also among the audience themselves. Everyone is individually welcomed and invited to share something to eat and drink. One way or another, we want everyone to become part of the show.

We perform a lot on bicycles because they are universal objects that everyone uses or sees on a daily basis. A bike is less abstract than a trapeze or teeterboard – though we perform on those too – and it’s great to show people just what can be done on one!

Live music is also very central in Now or Never. It’s not just as an accompaniment - we all play our instruments and do circus tricks at the same time. Blending the acrobatics and the music really enhances the way we reach the audience.

In the end what people usually remember is how close to us they feel - and that is reciprocal, we feel the same way too.

The young musicians of the MAPAS Jazz Band, Salford are performing with you in the show, how have you worked together?

Baptiste: Before the Circus arrives, we have had two sessions where we rehearse the sections of the show that they will play with us. We help them with the usual musical parameters - rhythm, sound, playing together etc - but also with the specific skills that they will need to be part of the show. They’ll need to know all the music by heart so they can interact with the others, they will have to move on stage, they will have to be characters (for example, they’ll be guests in a wedding scene). Some of the bands are surprised that they need performance as well as music skills!

When the circus arrives, we do the dress rehearsals in the Big Top. We want the young musicians to really make the most of the whole experience.

Maybe that’s what we want to share with them, that music is huge and there are so many different ways to perform it.

Now or Never takes place in Circa Tsuica’s travelling Big Top rather. What difference does that make for you as performers and for the audience?

Tom: Performing in a circus ring is very different to performing on a stage. There is no ‘cheating’ in a ring, the audience is all around you and there is nowhere to hide. All the action is in the centre so the the focus is greater. For the audience, every point of view is unique and close-up. For us, it is a challenge because we have to make every perspective interesting. At the same time, we can really feel the closeness of the audience which is a great pleasure. The audience can see each other and we like to play with that in the show. We change people’s perspective, we want everyone to feel that they are invited to a giant party.

Baptiste: When the audience arrives they expect to just go and find their seats but, actually, it’s already like a party, or the main square of a village. There’s a buffet in the middle, people are offered drinks by the artists. It’s a very warm atmosphere, the opposite of the pomp and circumstance of some theatres.

Is it true that once the tent is up, that there will be music rehearsals during the day that passerbys can come along and watch?

Tom: Sure, we’re always happy to welcome people to have a peep when we rehearse, so come along if you hear noises in the Big Top…

Circa Tsuica, the Plaza, the Lowry. Salford Quays, Monday, August 27 to Saturday, September 1. Details from 0843 208 6000 or