Farewell to 'amazing' Anita
A simple coffin made of wicker brought award-winning actress Anita Reeves to her final resting place yesterday. Hundreds stood to applaud her life and legacy as loved ones carried the coffin through a Gaiety Theatre guard of honour outside the Mansion House in Dublin.
The mother of Gemma and Danny, and wife of director/producer Julian Erskine, passed away last Thursday, following a 10-month battle with cancer. She was just 68.
Regarded as one of the country's greatest actors, Dublin-born Anita featured in many leading Irish films, including Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy, Mike Newell's Into the West and Lenny Abrahamson's Adam and Paul.
However, her first love was the stage. She starred in the original production of Dancing at Lughnasa as Maggie, which earned her a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is also widely praised for her portrayal of Mrs Lovett in the Gate Theatre's 2007 production of Sweeney Todd. She twice played Juno in Juno and the Paycock - first in Dublin in 1988 and again in Minneapolis, Minnesota just last year, in what would be her final performance.
In a humanist celebration of her life, Anita's friends, co-stars, colleagues and confidants shared moving stories and amusing tales of a woman described by all as "a force of nature".
Acclaimed actress Dearbhla Molloy, co-founder of Riverdance Moya Doherty, playwright Frank McGuinness, stage and screen star Rosaleen Linehan, costume designer Joan Bergin, artist Robert Ballagh, artistic director Joe Dowling, and veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne all paid their final respects.
Addressing the congregation under a large photograph of her smiling mother, Gemma described Anita's "great capacity for love".
Gemma began by reflecting on a card sent to Anita by a close friend just a few weeks ago: "It read, 'Dearest, gorgeous, funny, smart, daft, instinctive, extraordinary, remarkable, hot dang beautiful, compassionate, empathetic, life enhancing, amazing and thoroughly wonderful darling Anita', which beautifully summed up my mother."
Dearbhla Molloy, who first became friends with Anita when she was just 16, said: "To try to find words that come close to expressing who she was and what she meant to all of us is absolutely impossible. She was the funniest, kindest, loving, most original, and the most courageous person I know."