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article image‘Benidorm’ actor and stage director Kenny Ireland has died at 68

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 1, 2014 in Entertainment
Kenny Ireland, the Scottish actor and theatre director, well known for playing ageing swinger Donald Stewart in the hit ITV sitcom “Benidorm” has died at the age of 68.
Speaking to ITV News, his agent said, “[Kenny] had been ill with cancer for some time,” and confirmed he had passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Ireland was one of the principal cast members of Derren Litten’s Benidorm, as part of the husband-and-wife team Donald and Jacqueline Stewart, appearing in the series from the very start in 2007 up to and including the most recent set of episodes, which aired earlier this year.
In June, it was announced that the character would be taking a rest from the show while Ireland underwent treatment for brain cancer.
Prior to Benidorm, Ireland was a regular in Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques and appeared in dramas such as Taggart, Auf Wiedersen, Pet, and Heartbeat. In the 1990s, he played the media tycoon Benjamin Landless in House of Cards, the BBC political drama that starred the late Ian Richardson as the ruthless Conservative politician Francis Urquhart, and has since been re-imagined as the Netflix US political drama of the same name starring Kevin Spacey.
Also as an actor, Ireland’s films included Local Hero (1983) and the 1990 Liam Neeson vehicle, The Big Man.
It’s as a theatre director, however, that Ireland will be fondly remembered in his native Scotland. He debuted at the Traverse Theatre in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Later, he helped form the Wrestling School — a company dedicated to the work of controversial English playwright Howard Barker — whereupon he served as its artistic director.
For more than a decade, from 1992 to 2003, Ireland was director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, where he oversaw many productions, including Guys and Dolls, starring Elaine C. Smith as Miss Adelaide. He also directed at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen.
Then, on tour in Scotland, Ireland was responsible for the acclaimed large-scale productions of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song, Neil Gunn’s The Silver Darlings and Robin Jenkins’s The Cone Gatherers, three of Scotland’s most famous novels.
Greatly missed
As reported by stv.tv, a statement from the Benidorm production office included a moving tribute of Ireland. “We are terribly saddened to hear that Kenny Ireland has passed away, our thoughts are with his family at this time,” the statement read. “He was a much loved actor, not only by the cast and crew on Benidorm but by the millions of fans out there. He appeared as Donald Stewart in Benidorm from the first episode and helped play a huge part in its success. He will be greatly missed.”
Ireland’s portrayal of the ageing swinger Donald came about after his wife persuaded him to audition for the Benidorm role and, according to the Huffington Post, she joked, “If your wife gets you a job as a swinger, is she trying to tell you something?”
Since his death was announced, many tributes have appeared online through social media, aptly summed up by the Lyceum itself via its official Twitter feed: “We are greatly saddened to learn today that Kenny Ireland, Artistic Director of The Lyceum from 1992-2003 passed away this morning.”
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