Maeve Stone


A Dance Theatre Performance funded by Limerick City of Culture Pulse Legacy Programme.

Asylum-seekers and their children have spent years living in an institutional setting that was designed to be a short-term solution. They are accommodated by the state in residential institutions, under a system known as “Direct Provision.”

 – NASC Ireland


This work was created  with dancer/choreographer Angie Smalis and musician Rory Grubb and responds to the controversial direct provision system. I wanted to look at the visibility of the system and challenge audiences to engage with the issue. It was important that all of the information and material used to create the work was publically available; Interviews, footage, recordings, media responses and official reports form the basis for the performance.

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We were looking to create structural balance within the work by juxtaposing content and context. Games are a great leveller, they engage us, disarm us and connect us. The concept of creating a snakes and ladders ‘Game of Life’ board that covers the stage and corresponds to certain events relating to the journey of a refugee is something we were interested in exploring. The cruelty of the system can be in how arbitrary decisions and circumstances feel; representing this through a game of chance, and giving it life through dance, highlights the real frustration and damage to real people and families in such a vulnerable position.

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Limbo is a piece of work commissioned by Limerick City of Culture as part of the Pulse Legacy Programme. It was first performed as a work in progress presentation at The Hub in Limerick, November 2014. With Angie Smalis, Rory Grubb and Maeve Stone.

It was recommissioned by Mary Immaculate College as a performance for  BeD students and faculty in March 2015.

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On Tuesday, 31 March 2015 First Year B.ED students and the wider campus community of roughly 500 people were offered an unexpected insight into the everyday life of children and adults in Irish refugee centres. They witnessed a performance of “LIMBO” in the Lime Tree Theatre, jointly organised by Dr. Sabine Egger (Irish Centre for Transnational Studies (ICTS), German Studies) and Dr. Aislinn O’Donnell (Philosophy of Education), as a stimulant for discussion about questions of care, dignity, responsibility, children’s rights and migration as as part of the Ethics Strand of their Bachelor of Education

 The piece raises questions of home, migration, identity and citizenship, which have been a research focus of the Irish Centre for Transnational Studies. The ICTS aims to encourage both scholarly and public discussion of such questions. When I first saw the performance last year, I felt it had great potential to capture interest and encourage discussion among staff and students across disciplines in MIC.

LIMBO was both aesthetically fascinating and deeply thought provoking. It captured audience interest from beginning to end with a gripping use of audio clips of real voices of Asylum Seekers talking about their experience as well as live percussion and interpretative dance.

In LIMBO a game of chance reflects the perceived cruelty of a system which seems to manifest itself in arbitrary decisions and circumstances from the perspective of children and adult refugees, thus highlighting, and making physically palpable, the frustration and damage to real people and families in a vulnerable position.

  • Dr. Sabine Egger (Irish Centre for Transnational Studies)

The response to the piece was profound and overwhelming positive, both pedagogically and in respect of the aesthetic and affective encounter. Supporting students to understand and engage with the complex and difficult ethical and political questions of our time can be difficult, however exploring these issues through theatre and dance allowed for a much deeper and more meaningful engagement.

In order to be able to teach ethics to children, teachers need to develop their own ethical sensibilities and awareness of how ethical questions touch on the most ordinary of our daily acts. We knew that most students would be unaware of the direct provision system, and also have little awareness of human rights and of asylum seekers and refugees. This experience has brought me to reflect upon the pedagogical possibilities of encounters with theatre in our programmes. It seems to me important both in terms of developing an ethical and aesthetical sensibility but also in terms of conveying key ideas and redressing many of the misconceptions and prejudice to which students admitted as they reflected on the experience of Limbo. The non-didactic manner in which Limbo addressed these issues allowed for our students to have a more open, considered and reflective response than might ordinarily be expected.

  • Dr. Aislinn O’Donnell (Faculty of Education)
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