A tribute to Anita Reeves

A tribute to Anita Reeves

In a tribute to actress Anita Reeves, Fiach Mac Conghail, Director of the Abbey Theatre said:

It is with sadness and deep shock that we have learned of the untimely death of Anita Reeves. It is heart breaking most of all for her devoted family Julian, Gemma and Danny. For all of us – her friends and the theatre community – we are at a loss as we grieve one of Ireland’s most outstanding and talented actresses. I was blessed to be her friend and worked with Anita on many occasions. I will miss her both on and off the stage.’

Anita Reeves and the Abbey Theatre

Anita Reeves made her debut at the Abbey Theatre in 1976 playing ‘Z’ in Village Wooing by George Bernard Shaw.

Her career at the Abbey Theatre spanned five decades from 1976 to 2012. She was often directed by Joe Dowling, Patrick Mason and Ben Barnes, all previous Artistic Directors of the Abbey Theatre.

Anita had an energy that lent itself perfectly to comic turns and singing. In 1978 Anita played the lead part of ‘Pegeen Mike’ in The Heart’s a Wonder, a musical adaptation of Synge’s Playboy of the Western World presented by the Irish Theatre Company. She was a master of wit and comedy, delighting audiences in plays like Canaries by Bernard Farrell, Sive by John B Keane and You Can’t Take it with You by Kaufman & Hart. She balanced her light comedic energy with touching performances as ‘Mother’ in Da by Hugh Leonard in 2002 and ‘Julia Morken’ in The Dead in 2012.

Anita moved at ease from part to part even within the same works. When Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa had its world premiere at the Abbey Theatre in 1990, Anita brought ‘Maggie’ to life for the first time and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress. Almost ten years later, she returned to play ‘Kate’ when Dancing at Lughnasa was revived as part of a celebratory season at the Abbey Theatre to mark Brian Friel’s 70th birthday. She played the part of ‘Bet Bouncer’ in She Stoops to Conquer in 1982 and then ‘Mrs Hardcastle’ in another production in 2003.

Anita was a generous and kind hearted individual, often appearing with treats or presents on matinee days. Abbey audiences had the privilege of watching Anita play opposite her daughter Gemma Reeves in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in 2008. The familial bond they shared enriched the relationship played out on stage between ‘Nurse’ and ‘Juliet’.

Anita returned to the Abbey Theatre when Gúna Nua’s production of Little Gem by Elaine Murphy came to the Peacock stage in 2010. Her last appearance at the Abbey Theatre was in Frank McGuinness’s dramatisation of James Joyce’s The Dead in 2012.

Fiach Mac Conghail and Joe Dowling will pay tribute to Anita Reeves from the Abbey Stage this evening and the actress Barbara Brennan will pay tribute to her on the Peacock stage.

7 July 2016

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