THE Capital’s theatre community is mourning the death of acclaimed actor and director Kenny Ireland, who served as artistic director of the Lyceum Theatre for more than a decade.
Best known for his role as Donald Stewart on the ITV comedy Benidorm, Ireland directed more than 30 productions at the Lyceum and is credited with helping to launch the careers of many Scottish
actors and actresses.
His death was announced shortly after noon yesterday by his agent, the Richard Stone Partnership, where his wife, Meg Poole, was a partner. He was 68, and had battled cancer.
One of the first tributes came from First Minister Alex Salmond, who tweeted: “Sad to hear Kenny Ireland – a great actor & former director @lyceumtheatre – has passed away. Deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
As well as his role on Benidorm, Ireland also played parts in hit television shows Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Taggart, Drop the Dead Donkey and Heartbeat.
He served as artistic director of the Lyceum from 1992 to 2003, and helped launch the theatre’s creative learning department and its youth branch.
A spokesman for the Lyceum Theatre said: “We were greatly saddened to learned today of the death of Kenny Ireland.
“A significant figure in the history of the Lyceum Theatre, Kenny directed well over 30 new productions here, including many extraordinary, big, bold shows which audiences still remember among their favourite productions.
“He always sought to create opportunities for young actors to perform on stage, an instinct which helped to launch the careers of a new generation of Scottish acting talent and which continues to inform the work of the Lyceum to this day.
“An outspoken supporter of culture in Scotland and in particular the value of theatre in public life, Kenny Ireland was a strong proponent of a National Theatre for Scotland and a genuine, passionate champion of the arts.
“He was an important part of the Lyceum’s story and of the story of theatre in Scotland and he will be greatly missed.”
A spokesperson for ITV, where Mr Ireland took on his best-known role, said: “We are terribly saddened to hear that Kenny Ireland has passed away, our thoughts are with his family at this time.
“He was a much loved actor, not only by the cast and crew on Benidorm but by the millions of fans out there.”
Neil Murray, executive producer of the National Theatre of Scotland said: “Kenny Ireland was a giant of Scottish theatre. He leaves a wonderful legacy and will be much missed.