Ernest Reginald Wollfield was born in Britain in 1903, at Redditch in Worcestershire, from a Worcestershire family in reduced circumstances, but with a background that reportedly included a link with Shakespeare.
He left home at sixteen to begin his career as a dancer, and in 1925 was the last premier danseur engaged by Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes - but remained with the company only until Diaghilev's death a few weeks later. He then made his way to the Festival Theatre, Cambridge, to learn acting and production, and there he became part of a play-reading group. In 1926 he met and fell in love with the painter Robert Medley, who was the co-founder of the Group Theatre. They lived together until Doone's death.
In 1932, after Robert Medley moved to London, the play-reading group evolved into the Group Theatre (London), which performed left-wing and avant-garde plays during the 1930s and again during its revival in the 1950s.
Despite his prominence in avant-garde theatre, Doone was thought to be a muddled and ineffective stage director by W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and others, who tried to steer the Group Theatre into more effective productions and organization.
In the 1950s Doone founded the Theatre School at Morley College, and worked there until his premature retirement as a result of multiple sclerosis.
He died in 1966.
A portrait of Doone as a young man was painted by Cedric Morris ca. 1923.
- Michael J. Sidnell (1984). Dances of Death: The Group Theatre of London in the Thirties. Faber.
- Robert Medley (1983). Drawn from the Life: A Memoir. Faber.