JOE meets the creator of  'Tom Crean - Antartic Explorer', Aidan Dooley 8 years ago

JOE meets the creator of 'Tom Crean - Antartic Explorer', Aidan Dooley

The author and performer of this award-winning one man play.

He is about to embark on a nationwide tour in the play he wrote and in which he plays the only role in it.


JOE: Hi Aidan, you are about to embark on another tour with the play around Britain and Ireland, quite an extensive Irish tour, I've seen all the dates. When did you first perform this play?

Aidan: The first time I ever did an interpretation of Tom Crean was in 2001. In the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London as part of an exhibition. It was a 20 minute educational piece for families visiting the museum to enhance their understanding of Scott and Shackleton, wasn't really about Tom at all.


JOE: You've obviously have had an interest in history prior to acting, would that be fair to say?


Aidan: I loved history in school and I found myself as a performer leaving drama school looking for ways to earn a crust, so to speak, without having to leave the profession.


I just happened to fall into a few jobs in the early 90s after I left drama school which dealt with historical characters in this growing area of museum theatre.

JOE: How many times you have performed this play?


Aidan: There was a guy working for me about four years ago and he totted up the performances not including the museum work, and it was over 600 shows then. I reckon it has to be 8 or 900 now.


JOE: You may pass the 1,000 mark after this tour!

Aidan: Maybe! There's a part of me that doesn't want to know, but there's a part of me that's intrigued too.


JOE: One of the things you hear from artists who perform live is that it can be a challenge to deliver the performance with the same gusto, the same freshness as the first time they performed. How do you keep yourself motivated and entertained doing the play?

Aidan: My motivation, especially when working in the UK, is to spread the word of Tom Crean. It's a bit like when I first started out in Ireland, he was not known.


The first time he became known in Ireland was from Michael Smith's brilliant book, but that was a hardback. Then Guinness did that ad and suddenly the knowledge of Tom Crean became a bit more widespread.

My motivation is still to go out there and tell his story to the people who want to hear it. It's still my raison d'etre.  From back when I was in the museum and they were doing the Scott & Shackleton exhibitions with no mention of Tom, it has driven me since then to tell his story too.


ESHER, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Princess Anne, Princess Royal at Sandown racecourse on March 06, 2015 in Esher, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

That desire to tell his story still burns strong in me. I remember in Dundee a few years ago, Princess Anne was in the audience and I remember having a chat with Tom in my head thinking 'Jesus Tom, I'm going to tell your story to the daughter of the Queen of England!'

Everyone knows Scott and Shackleton, but Tom was as brilliant as any of them if not better because he was a real hard worker.

JOE: I can sense a warmth in your voice when you speak of Tom Crean and you obviously have this great affection for him.


Aidan: Oh yes, I feel as if he's around me all the time when I'm on tour and even when I'm not on tour. He's been wonderful. This isn't my show.

I don't have any 3rd parties getting involved in the show if you know what I mean, so it's just me and Tom. He has bestowed a financial stability in this actor's life that you rarely get unless you're very well known and making big films all the time.

I'm not saying I've made a fortune from it, but I've survived. My wife is an actor too so you can imagine us trying to earn a living.

JOE: The show obviously does a huge service to Tom Crean's legacy. Are you proud of that?

Aidan: I hope I don't sound like a mercenary, but that's the first thing I say in relation to the warmth I have to his memory. I do feel it's a two-way street definitely, but I do feel as if I know him.


I feel now that I don't have to try too hard to be Tom, it's like putting on a very well known jacket. I just sail on to that stage and suddenly Tom is there. I don't try to impersonate him because he was a very quiet man, he wouldn't have been much of a talker.

He's from Kerry and I was lucky enough to have been in a play with Eamonn Kelly many years ago and I kind of hear his rhythms and tones when I'm playing Tom.

Pic via Pic via

I didn't have a Kerry accent when I first started doing it in Britain, my own accent was sufficient for them to try and cope with.

Once I took it to Ireland however, it was a necessity for me to play it with the Kerry accent.

You can see Tom Crean 'Antartic Explorer' at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin from Monday 11th - Sat 16th May 2015. There is a matinee performance on the Saturday at 3pm. Tickets available here.