Playing with Fire – the Cambridge Student Circus

A troupe of wacky Cantabs have run away to join the circus – The Tab gets to the bottom of what they’re all about.

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Blazing fire, belly dancing and big ideas to top it off.

That’s the plan for Cantab stilt-walkers, fire dancers, jugglers and trapeze artists who’ve come together as Wildfire Productions, the best circus group this side of Parker’s Piece.

The Tab may have tried running away with the circus, but Wildfire are doing it for real. The 50-strong performance group draws over a quarter of its performers, and the majority of its managers, from Cambridge students or grads.

Circus chief Frankie Dubery, former ASNaC from Newnham, told The Tab: “People are usually surprised when they find what we do.

“Most of us either trained at the Cambridge Community Circus or Cambridge University Fire Troupe. We set up Wildfire last year. We’re all keen, dedicated performers and we wanted to take it to the next level.”

Dubery’s personal goal is to be in a state of suspense – literally: “Specifically, I want to do an aerial trapeze performance whilst hanging from a hot air balloon.”

Hot stuff – blazing displays like this are one of Wildfire’s specialities

Wildfire performers believe the company’s future is bright. Guy, a circus teacher and fire performer, is burning with enthusiasm.

“We want to create larger and larger shows, pushing ourselves to blur the distinction between exhilarating performance and unique experience”, he told The Tab.

Jelena Aleksic, performance director and PhD geneticist at Darwin, is similarly keen to: “push the boundaries of what our team can do, both as performers and as a company.”

Living the high life at Clare May Ball

However, sometimes the troupe push the boundaries too far. Dubery told us that once a flaming hula hoop took her mate’s top off. “Luckily she was wearing a bra!” she laughed.

Aleksic admits there are accidents. Her friend’s beard once caught alight, but she says: “During the dance, it was scary, but I now it is something to laugh about.”

Wildfire will perform the bonfire night celebration on Midsummer Common, this year, and plan to open the firework-filled night with the blaze of fifteen fire dancers and tribal drummers. They sure aren’t clowning around any more.

Photographs by James Rice and Col Maggs