When the actor Ewan Donald was a wee lad growing up in Falkirk, he found himself torn between two different forms of weekend performance. “My mum used to take me and my brother to see children’s theatre,” says Donald. “and I was always pretty intrigued by actors, and this thing that they do. But the weekend children’s drama club at Falkirk Town Hall clashed with our junior football matches; and in the end, the football won out, because I loved that too.”
By the time Donald left school, though, his football career was looking less promising, and his interest in acting was becoming more serious; and after two years studying theatre at the local college, he applied for drama school, finally landing a place at Queen Margaret University in 2001, when he was 23, and had already spent some time travelling and working across Europe. When he graduated in 2004, he became a graduate trainee at Dundee Rep; and that experience acted as a springboard for Donald’s continuing successful acting career in Scotland.
“It was a great experience,” he says, “working with James Brining and Dominic Hill, who’s now artistic director of the Citizens’ Theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of good directors over the years, but I always come back to that early experience with Dominic as my ideal of how a director should work – the combination of really brilliant, detailed understanding of the text, and willingness to give actors the space to bring their own creativity to the work.”
Donald now has a special interest in directing styles, because after an acting career that has encompassed dozens of major roles – in shows ranging from the musical Sunshine On Leith to Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, via a remarkable solo performance in Magnetic North’s Walden, and an appearance as Bob Cratchit in the 2019 production of the Lyceum’s Edinburgh Christmas Carol – he is now directing himself, notably in the Rep’s recent A-Z Of Dundee; and after playing Scrooge in last year’s Christmas Carol at Dundee, he is now assisting director Jemima Levick on the company’s 2022 Christmas show.
Donald also runs a little “side hustle”, developed during lockdown, in editing and preparing showreels for other theatre professionals; and from their home in Edinburgh, he and his fiancee, the actress Romana Abercromby, produce a courageous podcast called For Trying Out Loud, in which they try to be as open and positive as possible about their experience of infertility over the last six years.
In the meantime, though, Donald has also become an admirer of the work of Edinburgh-based writer Mikey Burnett, playing a leading role in Burnett’s hard-hitting comedy The Bookies – co-written with Joe McCann – which scored a major hit at Dundee last year. In this specially recorded Scotsman Session, Donald plays another of Burnett’s hapless male characters, in a monologue called “It’s Ladle!”, trying to impress his girlfriend’s family as they join in with their favourite television quiz show.
“I think from an actor’s point of view, Mikey’s characters are great fun to play, and they make me genuinely belly laugh,” says Donald. “And I love the vernacular he writes in – there’s a real rhythm and music to it that makes it an absolute pleasure to speak, and to perform in front of an audience.”