Anita Reeves

Anita Reeves
Anita Reeves

Anita Reeves.

Anita Reeves is a talented Irish actress who has acted mostly on stage.  She was part of the original cast of Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”.   She has worked intermittingly on film and television.   She featured in William Trevor’s “The Ballroom of Romance” as Cat Bolger.   Her scenes with Brenda Fricker and Ingrid Craigie in the ladies clockroom in the dance hall are among the best in the film.   She has also appeared in “The Butcher Boy” and “Adam and Paul”.   Her profile at “The Abbey Theatre” webpage can be accessed here. Anita Reeves died in 2016.

“Irish Examiner” article from 2014:

By Colette Sheridan

ANITA Reeves, who stars in a new production of the hit play Little Gem, jokes that she has been threatening to retire from her stage career for 20 years.    The 66-year-old actor and singer, who is reprising her role as the grandmother in Elaine Murphy’s play about three generations of Dublin women, says she was never ambitious.

“But I have had an amazing career,” she reflects. “I have always done what I wanted to do. Once I settled down and had a family, they became the important thing for me. I still managed to work away quite a lot. I was very lucky to have a supportive sister who minded the children while I was away. They travelled with me as much as they could, but when they got to an age where they couldn’t do that, I stopped travelling so much.”   Reeves is married to Julian Erskine, the executive producer of Riverdance. Their son, Danny, is stage manager of the Riverdance touring company and is currently working on the show in China. Daughter, Gemma, had a burgeoning career as an actor but decided it wasn’t for her and returned to college where she is studying psychology.   “To be honest, I was kind of relieved when Gemma left acting. I wasn’t aware that I had that anxiety. It’s because it’s a much harder business for younger people compared to when I started. It’s very competitive now.”

As a child, Reeves was taken by her parents to plays and pantomimes. “I remember thinking I wanted to be on stage. My first job was in a pantomime in a tiny theatre in Dun Laoghaire. I went on to do two pantomimes with Eamon Morrissey at the Gaiety. One year, Maureen Potter was ill and she kindly suggested that I take over from her. We became very good friends and she was a huge influence on me. I adored her. The most valuable lesson I learned from Maureen was to connect with the audience and feel they’re your friends. A lot of actors are terrified of audiences. But I believe they wish you the best.”

Career highlights include Les Miserables at the former Point Depot where Reeves played the wife of the innkeeper, played by John Kavanagh. Reeves was in the original production of Dancing at Lughnasa and also played Juno in Juno and the Paycock at the Gaiety, over 20 years ago. It was directed by Joe Dowling who will again direct Reeves in the same role next May in the theatre he runs in Minneapolis. The production will mark the end of Dowling’s 20-year stint there.   Little Gem has been good for Reeves. The play, which deals with momentous events in the lives of the grandmother, her daughter (Hilda Fay) and her granddaughter (Kate Gilmore) is directed by the author of the play. Following its debut at the Dublin Fringe, the play won the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award in 2009. The prize was a four-week run in an off-Broadway Theatre with all expenses paid. It also played in Australia and Tasmania.

Reeves admits that she feared the play wouldn’t be fully understood abroad as it’s written in a northside Dublin idiom.   “When we were in New York, we were terrified that the audience wouldn’t respond to it. But they did. It’s a family story that is universal. There’s all the tensions and the events such as marriages, births and deaths.”

The above “Irish Examiner” article can also be accessed online here

Obituary from “The Guardian” by Michael Coveney in 2016.

Speeches were made from every stage in Dublin on the night Anita Reeves died of cancer, aged 68, a mark of the popular affection in which the actor was held. Small, vivacious and red-haired, she was as much a musical theatre star as she was a leading exponent of Seán O’Casey and Brian Friel. And when she played the long-deceased adoptive mother in Hugh Leonard’s autobiographical Da, the author said she was the closest to the real-life Maggie Tynan as anyone had ever been in the role.

The youngest daughter of Jack Reeves, a sergeant in the Dublin police force, and his wife, Kay, Anita was educated at St Louis high school, Rathmines, and trained as an actor for four years at the Brendan Smith Academy in Dublin, having worked briefly as a vet’s assistant and in an old people’s care home. She appeared as a principal boy in pantomime in a small theatre in Dún Laoghaire owned by the gas company, several pantomimes at the Gaiety with Eamon Morrissey and, in 1966, in a mass pageant of students celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Croke Park, hallowed home of Gaelic football.

She became a favourite in the Dublin revues of the mid-1960s, many of them written and produced by Fergus Linehan and also starring his wife Rosaleen Linehan. This prepared her for such later triumphs as Mme Thénardier in the Dublin premiere of Les Misérables in 1993, or a bewitching Mrs Lovett in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at the Gate in Dublin in 2007. She chilled the audience’s collective marrow, too, in a musical moment in Joe Dowling’s 2012 production of James Joyce’s The Dead, adapted for the stage by Frank McGuinness, at the Abbey.

Dowling had first directed Reeves in the Irish premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular at the Gate in 1974 and, although she had many successes at both the Abbey and the Gate, she remained a non-aligned employee. She was a quintessentially Dublin actor, and defied all other categories. Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), first directed by Patrick Mason, is Friel’s magical, mystical memory play about his mother and aunts during the long hot summer of 1936, and Reeves embodied the spirit and tenacity of those “five Glenties women” as Maggie, the good-natured family clown; the scene of them all dancing around the kitchen is securely lodged in Irish theatre folklore.

The play came to the National Theatre in London and transferred to the West End. Over the following five years, Reeves revisited the West End in two Dowling productions of O’Casey political classics: in the Gate revival of Juno and the Paycock at Wyndham’s in 1993 (with Niall Buggy and Mark Lambert), she was surely the definitive Juno Boyle; and in a touring revival of The Plough and the Stars at the Garrick in 1995 she was revealed in bustling, comical form as Jinnie Grogan the charwoman, lamenting her marriage while excavating ear wax.

She adorned one of Nicholas Hytner’s first productions as artistic director of the National Theatre in London when, with Dearbhla Molloy, she played one of the chatty aunts in the grocery store in Martin McDonagh’s extraordinary The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997) and returned in the following year to play a figure of comparative rectitude, a landlady, in the Almeida theatre’s version of Pirandello’s Naked starring Juliette Binoche – who drew a fine caricature of Reeves as a first night gift.

She was back in Dublin as Mrs O’Kelly in a well-remembered revival of Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun (2005) and toured to the Edinburgh festivaland New York in 2013 with Deirdre Kinahan’s two-hander These Halcyon Days in which, opposite Stephen Brennan as a former actor, she played a retired primary schoolteacher in a nursing home with her customary humour, grace and large, watery eyes.

Her last stage appearance was as Juno again, directed by Dowling in his farewell production in charge of the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis last summer. She had, said Dowling, grown even greater in the role, bringing an added elegance and finesse to the spirited mouthpiece of the Dublin tenements during the nationalist schisms of 1922.

Reeves’s films included Neil Jordan’s remarkable debut, Angel (1982), as well as the same director’s The Miracle (1991) and The Butcher Boy (1997), Mike Newell’s Into the West (1992) and Alan Archbold’s The Life of Reilly (1995).

She was briefly married to (and divorced from) the actor Barry McGovern and lived for more than 30 years with Julian Erskine, the executive producer of Riverdance, whom she married in 2000. She is survived by Julian, their two children, Gemma and Danny, and her siblings, Maureen, Tom and John.

 Anita Reeves, actor, born 24 June 1948, died 7 July 2016

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