Interview: Musician and acrobat Tom Neal on Circa Tsuica’s Opus 7 UK tour
TSOTA’s Rich Jevons talks to Circa Tsuica’s Tom Neal from St Agil about the UK tour of Opus 7, a feel-good show combining circus and brass band music.
Circa Tsuica’s Tom Neal recalls: ‘I started with theatre when I was about five and I was doing quite a lot of that until I had my A level which was a drama A level in France., After that when I was wondering about which school I would go to afterwards I saw a modern circus show. I talked with the guys afterwards and they told me they came from circus school. So at eighteen I decided I’d like to do this at CNAC.’
So what was life like at circus school? ‘We mainly learned circus of course, we had regular lessons of our disciplines but besides that we had workshops in the afternoons which were different every week. It could be drama, dance, music, it was very eclectic.’
And how did you come to form Circa Tsuica in your base at St Agil? ‘We created the company when we were still at school because we knew we wanted to stay together and do shows together. The director was from St Agil and he told us about a small venue in the village which was an old barn and there was also a camping site where you can put all the caravans. So we decided to go over there and met all the locals and they really welcomed us and we decided to stay.’
You are collaborating with a local brass band at each date of the UK tour aren’t you? ‘Yes, one of us has been doing workshops in the UK with the different local brass bands in the different cities, the nine cities where we will be performing. So he’s been showing them the different tunes that we will be playing in the pieces from our repertoire. It is part of an initiative from Crying Out Loud who told us it would be nice to do something with local brass bands. So we decided it would be very interesting to do.
‘We always try to mix music and circus together, we’re not asking for musicians to play while we perform circus, we play music and do circus at the same time. What we like is that it really gives something special because circus influences the music and vice versa. We like that connection between these two things. Of course, rhythm is very important in both music and circus and has to be combined. There is a link between them that is really close.’
Besides the obvious slapstick what makes your work so funny? ‘We try to have some sort of irony. So we have these military march bands costumes and obviously you realise very quickly that we are not a military march band. We start walking together at the same pace but very quickly this explodes as soon as we start doing circus. It becomes really irreverent and there is a lot of self-mockery. Also the music can be cinematographic and there are moments that look like film.’
And does it have a serious side? ‘I think there is something very lively about how joyful it is to be together and to share a moment. There is something that goes beyond just having fun, it is about the balance between being serious and being funny and how we go from one to another.’