Date of Birth: 7 August 1945, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Birth Name: George Ian Kenneth Ireland
Nicknames: Kenny Ireland
The actor Kenny Ireland, who has died of cancer aged 68, crowned a long career on stage and screen by playing the outrageous, Speedos-clad Donald Stewart in the popular ITV sitcom Benidorm. He and Janine Duvitski played Donald and Jacqueline, members of the Middlesbrough Swingers Association looking for other sexually adventurous holidaymakers in the Spanish resort. The fictional couple were Derren Litten's first creations when he started writing Benidorm and they appeared in all six series (2007-14).
"Half the things I don't understand," Ireland said of his character's lines to Radio Times last year. "There was one episode where I had to say, '[Jacqueline prefers] the sausage in cider.' I said, 'What's funny about that?' and had to have it explained to me."
There was an innocent, straight quality to Ireland's acting that helped to bring laughs in the early series of Benidorm and continued despite the sitcom's descent into the realms of a freak show with new, less believable characters.
Ireland was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, the son of Ian, an RAF bomber pilot who was killed on a secret mission when Ireland was five months old, and Elizabeth (nee Cowie). On leaving Paisley grammar school, he worked as an apprentice at the town's thread manufacturer, J&P Coats. However, his ambition was to act and he eventually left to train at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Then, as an actor and assistant director, he helped to establish the Lyceum Youth theatre in Edinburgh.
He made his West End acting debut in Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy (Mayfair theatre, 1976) after the Traverse Theatre Company's Edinburgh production transferred to London. He was then a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1978-80), before work at the National Theatre (1979-84), where he was Apollo in Peter Hall's production of The Oresteia, and the Old Major and Pilkington in Animal Farm. By then, he was himself directing at the Traverse theatre.
Ireland first appeared on television as an Edinburgh bank manager in an episode of the police drama Strangers (1980). In between many other one-off roles, he played Sammy, alongside Simon Cadell and Carol Royle, in the first series (1987) of the sitcom Life Without George and the thuggish American media tycoon Ben Landless in the political drama House of Cards (1990).
He was also one of the regular group of actors in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985-87), best remembered in blue dungarees and cap as the handyman Derek in the much-loved Acorn Antiques sketches, which lampooned the soap opera Crossroads. "To this day, nice camp waiters quote my dialogue at me and are slightly disappointed that I don't remember any of the lines," Ireland said in 2007.
In the cinema, Ireland was in the Scottish film comedy Local Hero (1983), directed by Bill Forsyth, and Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers (1988). With Hugh Fraser, he founded the theatre company the Wrestling School in 1988 to produce the works of Howard Barker, directing many productions himself.
From 1993 to 2003, Ireland was artistic director of the Royal Lyceum theatre, Edinburgh. Among the productions he directed were A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing, Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. On leaving, he made a stinging attack on the Scottish arts establishment for "providing theatre on the cheap" through underfunding. In 1997, he directed his first opera, Rigoletto, for Scottish Opera.