Race Horse Company’s new show Petit Mal comes to Queen Elizabeth Hall 4 – 6 June. Their brand of wildly chaotic, adrenaline-charged circus mixes trampolining, breakdancing, acrobatics, Chinese pole, hip-hop, falling and martial arts – watch the video for a taster.
John Ellingsworth travelled to Helsinki to see the show – read his full review in Sideshow Circus Magazine.
He had a chat with Petri, Kalle and Rauli, the three members of Race Horse Company:
How did you come together to form Race Horse Company?
R: ‘We have a city called Turku in Finland. I was born there in Turku, and Petri and Kalle had been studying in Turku. When we met each other we were still students, studying circus, and we met as friends – then later on we started thinking about making things together.’
P: ‘Me and Kalle were in the same circus school, but not at the same time.’
R: ‘I’d had a long discussion already with Petri that we wanted to do something together, and we were thinking that we cannot do this with just the two of us – we needed a third person. Summer of 2008 it was time to start to do something and then we asked Kalle if he’d be interested in joining us.’
P: ‘When we thought we needed a third member and who would it be there was only one option, and it was him.’
The name of the show, Petit Mal, refers to a type of fit or seizure. Is your style consciously like a fit?
P: ‘It’s more about the language of the show. You don’t need to be so exact and I think it’s like wildness and this… [makes fists, then claws].’
K: ‘I think it’s because normally in circus you have to succeed in everything, and if you fall down or crash then it’s doing something different than what people normally do… I like crashing. I’ve been doing breakdancing for a long time and in breaking it’s like if you crash you lose. And that’s why it’s interesting for me – because now I can crash. I still win.’
What influences your work?
P: ‘For me it’s environment. What I see around; really simple things. I like it when I see something unexpected on a normal scene – somebody’s acting funny or acting in a way that they shouldn’t.
I was travelling in Nepal in a bus, and from a window of the bus I saw two houses between a broken house and a hole in the ground, and there was this small boy in the hole, looking at the scene around him through 3D glasses. And then I explained that I wanted that thing to be the beginning of Petit Mal: that everything is destroyed and you’re looking at the view with 3D glasses. And then the whole thing started to build up from that.’
R: ‘I’ve read comics and cartoons all my life. I just like it because you have no rules, everything can happen. I think in movies there’s less of that – in movies there has to be the story or the plot but cartoons can go just wild. And I just really enjoy that. Then I’m really into electronic music. I’d really single out Amon Tobin – it’s mixing a quite deep, hard sound with a jazz and electronic sound and it’s quite unique.’
P: ‘I did kickboxing for four years and one year of the cage fighting. It was the first course in Finland… I didn’t ever compete. Some of the fighting techniques are used for the show. But it’s playful. I don’t experience it as being wild. It’s like people have really wrong ideas about martial arts and how the people are and stuff. You don’t hurt your friends.’
K: ‘I’m a lot from hip-hop culutre. I did some graffiti and music and rap stuff before; now it’s still my life but I have to do something for work. This was so near to that – I could express myself through this and do it as work.’
You’re touring to four venues around the UK. Tell me about life on tour…
P: ‘Last summer, inside 17 hours we did three shows in two different countries – first in Vilnius, and then in Riga, and then back to Vilnius. The first show was at 6. At 7 we were on the road; I was eating at the driving wheel and driving at the same time.’
K: ‘And there was this storm coming and cops were harassing us on the border.’
P: ‘We were supposed to do the show at 12; we arrived to the place at 12.05 and we started the show at 12.20.’
K: ‘We got some coffee and we started.’
R: ‘Then after the show we saw some friends, got talking, kept on hanging around.’
P:‘I think we stayed in the bar till 4. I got up at 7 to drive back and then we got back to Riga and there was a city marathon there and we had to drive all over the city to get to the place where we were performing.’
‘Then we hadn’t done the show before at night-time and I have sunglasses in the show so I couldn’t see anything. It was actually the best performance of that show that we’ve done – in Riga, at night.’
R: We had a one hour break, then it was back to Vilnus to do another show.
Rauli, your trampoline solo is one of the highlights of the show. What’s the attraction of the trampoline?
R: ‘I got just really interested in doing it wrong, just breaking all the moves. Because I’d been practicing all the hard techniques on it and I had really good teachers in Sweden. But before that I did trampoline with all my friends and had a teacher that said if you could do the trick then that was fine – no need to clean it up, just move onto the next one.’
‘I just wanted to continue that work. You’re free in the air. In trampoline you have one point where you have to tense your body – the take-off – and after take-off you can relax your body. Every time I’m in the air I’m really relaxed.’