Tributes paid to ‘great actor and fearless advocate’ Anita Reeves

Hundreds gather at Mansion House on Saturday morning for humanist ceremony


While the hundreds of people who gathered in Dublin’s Mansion House on Saturday morning to mourn the passing of celebrated actor Anita Reeves were united in grief, the emotion that shined brightest over the course of the ceremony was love.

A guard of honour from the Gaiety Theatre applauded as the actor’s wicker coffin was carried into the Round Room under a blanket of light drizzle ahead of a humanist ceremony led by celebrant Susie Kennedy, who described her as a “great actor and a fearless advocate”.

Giving a eulogy, the actor’s daughter Gemma Reeves opened by thanking Ireland’s acting community for the “beautiful send-off given to her in theatres across the country”. Her passing had been marked by standing ovations and tributes at theatres on Thursday night.

On film, Reeves played roles in several Irish classics including Neil Jordan’s first film, Angel, as well as his later Pat McCabe adaptation, The Butcher Boy. She also starred in Mike Newell’s Into the West and Lenny Abrahamson’s Adam and Paul.

She maintained a long relationship with the Abbey and performed in the original production of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa as Maggie, in 1990 - a role that earned her an Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Ms Reeves continued the eulogy with a quote from a note sent to her mother by a close friend weeks before her death, on Thursday, after a 10-month battle with cancer.

‘Gorgeous, funny, smart, daft’

The card opened with the words: “Dearest, gorgeous, funny, smart, daft, instinctive, extraordinary, remarkable, hot dang beautiful, compassionate, empathetic, life enhancing, amazing and thoroughly wonderful darling Anita’,” and Ms Reeves said the words “beautifully summed up my mother”.

She said her mother had had “the greatest capacity for love” and “lived bravely and honestly”, concluding by saying her mother had put great faith in the energy of the universe and calling on the congregation “to send some love to Anita wherever she may be - and envelop her with love to send her home”.

Actors Dearbhla Molloy, Des Keogh, Rosaleen Linehan, Eamon Morrissey, theatre owner Caroline Downey, Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan, co-founder of Riverdance Moya Doherty, playwright Frank McGuinness, artist Robert Ballagh, artistic director Joe Dowling and broadcaster Gay Byrne were among mourners at the Mansion House.

‘Impossible task’

“To try and find words that come close to expressing who she was and what she meant to all of us is an impossible task for me,” said Molloy,

She described Reeves as the “kindest, funniest, most loved, most creative, and – more recently – bravest person I knew”, adding that “love was Anita’s motor, the essence of who she was”.

“What a great wondrous magnificent feeling of love there is in this room,” actor Niall Buggy added. “Anita is the force of life that makes this world more bearable because she filled our world with love.”

Artistic director Joe Dowling said that what was “so special and unique about Anita” was her “capacity for love and loyalty. She was not devoid of ambition but she was never driven by it,” he said. “She always put her family first.”

Her director/producer husband Julian Erskine, daughter Gemma and son Danny Erskine, a stage manager, were the chief mourners.