Stephen MacDonald: 1933 - 2009
Stephen MacDonald was an actor, director, novelist and playwright. Born in Scotland on May 5 he was brought up in Birmingham, where he trained at the Birmingham School of Acting. By the early 1960s, he was playing leading roles, including Hamlet at Salisbury Playhouse, and working with leading touring companies such as Prospect.
MacDonald's insight and deep intelligence drew him to directing and in late 1972 he became artistic director of Dundee Rep where he worked with established actors such as Callum Mill, Martin Heller, Peter Laird, Janet Michael, Jan Wilson, Clare Richards and young actors such as Gregor Fisher, Maureen Beattie and Ron Bain.
Meanwhile, his writing developed. Fine adaptations of Marlowe (All Ayre and Fire, 1978), Kipling (Kipling's Jungle Book, 1979) and work for radio emerged, but his high point was Not About Heroes, exploring the friendship of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon following their First World War meeting in Edinburgh's Craiglockhart Military Hospital. The work encapsulates not just friendship, but the technical nature of the creative relationship of writers to writing, something MacDonald as actor, director and writer fully understood.
Winning a 1982 Edinburgh Festival Fringe First, the play transferred to the King's Head Theatre in London and was revived at the National Theatre in 1986 when MacDonald was part of the remarkable year-long Cottesloe Theatre company led by Ian McKellen and Edward Petherbridge. It continues to be produced across the world. Stephen MacDonald died on 12 August 2009.
NOT ABOUT HEROES had its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in 1982. It won a Fringe First, toured and came to the King's Head, after which was adapted for Yorkshire TV and BBC Radio 4 and was published by Faber, all in 1983.
A new production at the Royal National Theatre in 1986 celebrated the centenary of Sassoon's birth. A national tour took place the following year. In 1992, the author directed a revised text for the Citizens, Glasgow (a production afterwards seen in Shrewsbury as part of celebrations marking the centenary of Owen's birth.) A successful production by Dianne Wiest at the Williamstown Theatre Festival transferred to New York in 1985 for which Edward Herrmann and Dylan Baker both won OBIe awards. The 1987 Stratford Ontario production, with Nicholas Pennell and Henry Czernym, was revived the following year.