High-flying teenagers wanted for dome circus

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RINGMASTER PETER Mandelson will recruit 180 young people to train as circus acrobats in the big show spectacular planned for the Millennium dome.

Tight-rope walkers, trick cyclists, and trapeze artists are needed. Clowns need not apply but jugglers, stilt walkers and fire eaters will help to make the performance "athletic and modern", as creative director Mark Fisher visualises it. The show will be staged six times a day from the year 2000 in the big theatre space within the dome. The troupe of 180 will be divided into two teams.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Government giving the dome the go-ahead on 19 June last year, the recruitment drive will begin next Thursday. The New Millennium Experience are looking for 16, 17 and 18 year-olds to run away and join the Circus Space school in east London.

Auditions will be held at dance schools throughout the country. Graduates from Circus Space, which is affiliated to the Berkshire College of Technology, are awarded a B.Tec vocational A level. The normal two year course will be compressed into one intensive year of training for the eve of 31 December, 1999, when the dome becomes a big top. Traditional circuses recruit from a pool of trained Chinese and Russian performers which is why the NME will train their own.

"The performance of 12 graduates from Circus Space at the degree show a fortnight ago was brilliant, says Mark Fisher.

Artistic director of the show, and in charge of personnel, choreographer Micha Bergese has set up a huge production office at Circus Space in Coronet Street, London. Rock star Peter Gabriel, and architect Mark Fisher will work with the recruits, all of whom will be sworn to secrecy so that the show will still have some surprises.

As the designer who helped drive the Rolling Stones into tax exile after the phenomenal success of road shows like 'Steel Wheels' and 'Babylon', Mark Fisher uses special effects like lights, fireworks and inflatables to dramatise live performances. Now he says he is looking forward to working with the circus performers to make it the greatest show on earth.