Kenny Ireland: Benidorm actor who had an equally successful theatre career, especially with the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh

 

Later-life television fame from his appearances in all of its series inevitably for Kenny Ireland resulted in the label “Benidorm actor”. Indeed, his performance as enthusiastic Scottish “swinger” Donald Stewart, libido rising with the Spanish sun, alongside his equally rampant wife (Ireland and Janine Duvitski had a wonderfully lubricious on-screen zest), was a highspot of the series.

There was however much more to Ireland, both as actor and director, than Benidorm’s less than subtle strokes. His career as a director  notably his spell of more than a decade as Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – was especially distinguished.

Ireland was born in Paisley in 1945; his bomber-pilot father was killed on a secret mission when Ireland was only an infant. A bright child, he was drawn at an early age to the cinema and to the theatre alike. After he trained at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy at a time when its reputation was particularly high his career was not slow to take off.

Rubicund and heavily built, Ireland was never going to be matinee-idol material but as a character actor he was rarely out of work and  had a remarkable range. His television career was crowded; naturally he appeared in all the usual suspects of Scottish-set series, with two appearances in Taggart as well as in Monarch of the Glen and Hamish Macbeth, but he also contributed strikingly to such different series as Midsomer Murders and Auf Wiedersehn, Pet.

Two of his best small-screen performances were contrasted – his endearingly gormless beamish-boy handyman amid the glorious gallery of  “Acorn Antiques” in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV and the disturbingly ambiguous figure of media tycoon Benjamin Landless squaring up to silky-smooth Ian Richardson  as Francis Urquhart in House of Cards.

The theatre remained Ireland’s principal love. Before his time at the Lyceum he had worked steadily in repertory, including an appearance in Macbeth for the Cambridge Theatre Company (1980) alongside Brian Cox, and he was part of an uncommonly strong all-male and masked ensemble at the National Theatre in the revelatory Peter Hall production of Aeschylus in Tony Harrison’s version of The Oresteia (1982).

His period at the Royal Lyceum (1993-2003) was notable for its eclectic programming, from musicals and large-cast Shakespeare productions to modern classics and occasional new plays. As a director, though he could handle efficiently enough box-office staples such as Private Lives, he was at his best on a larger scale; his ebullient Guys and Dolls, a Midsummer Night’s Dream both eerie and earthily funny, and his life-enhancing scrutiny of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa were especially fine.

New Scottish work did not feature heavily at the Lyecum during Ireland’s regime although he directed a muscular production of James Bridie’s play on Burke and Hare, The Anatomist, and programmed a splendid revival of John Byrne’s hilarious Writer’s Cramp. His Lyceum period could see his combative side; and when he left the post of Artistic Director in 2003 he had some sharply stinging words for the Scottish Executive and for the Scottish arts establishment’s notorious parsimony over the long-mooted National Theatre of Scotland (it was finally launched in 2006).

Films came calling for Ireland surprisingly rarely; he had supporting roles in the major success of Local Hero and, more rewardingly, alongside Liam Neeson in The Big Man.

George Ian Kenneth Ireland, actor: born Paisley 7 August 1945; died 31 July 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory