Review: Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre's A LIFE WITH NO LIMITS Celebrates Stephen Hawking

By: Mar. 01, 2017

This year's INTERSECTIONS Festival at the Atlas Performing Arts Center is a gold mine of new and experimental shows, and it's especially gratifying to see companies like Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre return to Washington with a fascinating new work, A Life With No Limits, dedicated to the life and ideas of the Nobel physicist Stephen Hawking.

Aura Curiatlas has developed a unique, intensely physical brand of performance without words, incorporating circus and dance techniques into narratives that are eye-popping in their execution and touching in their meaning. Feats of balance and strength abound as the story unfolds.

A Life With No Limits had its genesis in a remarkable chance encounter between composer Sophia Serghi and Hawking himself at his home in Cambridge, England. Impressed by her musicality, the idea of a ballet on the theme of his remarkable story led Serghi to compose a series of pieces while Joan Gaveler, one of Aura Curiatlas' Artistic Directors (and a colleague of Serghi's at the College of William & Mary), assembled a team of performers to flesh out a movement piece that reflected his triumphs, struggles and his ideas.

Mickey Lonsdale leads the cast as Hawking, and we follow the famous astrophysicist from his able-bodied school years through his crippling illness, to the recognition for his achievements. As the Hawking character becomes increasingly confined we see his mind reaching for the stars; the ensemble alternates between the roles of friends and domestic caretakers, and the stuff of Hawking's fertile scientific mind. It comes as no surprise that for all his physical limitations, Hawking is freest when he contemplates the origins of the universe.

Hawking's interactions with the stuff of the universe are intense; whether manipulating equations on scraps of paper or atoms from his chair or mingling with the stuff of the universe in the freedom of his imagination, the power of the human mind is in the foreground.

Sunday's performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center gave the audience a glimpse of a work that will continue to develop over time, as Aura Curiatlas tours. The company opened its performance with an amusing slapstick vignette, "Special Delivery" in which the company members grapple and wrestle to open a package, which changes hands with hilarious frequency. It's a great introduction to their acrobatic style, and an ice-breaker for those who are perhaps unfamiliar with wordless, physical theatrical forms.

Aura Curiatlas' tour schedule includes stops in Lynchburg, Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia, as well as Johnstown PA (just to stick to the east coast venues). Catch them when they come anywhere near you!

Photo of ensemble by Geoffrey Wade

Running Time: 1 hour (Prelude included).

A Life With No Limits was performed at the Atlas Performing Arts Center as part of the INTERSECTIONS Festival 2017.

For more information about Aura Curiatlas and future performances please visit: