Tom Crean – A Time Polished Theatrical Gem

Aidan Dooley - sustained standing ovation at the Ivy Leaf on Friday night.
Aidan Dooley – sustained standing ovation at the Ivy Leaf on Friday night.

Aidan Dooley left every fibre of his considerable acting ability on the well trodden stage of the Ivy Leaf Art Centre during the performance of his one-man show ‘Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer’ in Castleisland on Friday night.

He drew his spellbound audience in on the story of the voyage and on the voyage of the story.

There were people who were convinced they sustained frost-bite as they left the cosy confines of the theatre after the show.

Everyone there agreed they had just witnessed an amazing piece of wit and work on a stage in our own little town.

Like a decent man in a public house, Aidan Dooley stood to his audience. The long and sustained standing ovation at the end of his powerful performance said it all.

He bowed and smiled his thanks over the din and looked drained in an exhilarated kind of way. His words, like those of Tom Crean in the howling Antarctic winds, were lost in our boisterous expression of admiration and thanks for the gift he had just given us.

In the context of the theatre it’s the only way we know how to say “Thank you very much” in a meaningful way.

There were many children in the audience and one can only imagine the impression his enthusiasm and genius will have left on them. You can be sure it’s an experience they won’t forget.

This was a gem of a performance and one that he’s been polishing since 2001. And it was presented in a demanding style that didn’t spare him. It is cleverly tailored too with an eye to the geographical location of the stage he happens to be on. There were, for example, several well timed jokes on Cork people – and we enjoyed them – and he enjoyed us enjoying them.

His promotional leaflet carries a quote from former RTE news-reader, Sunday Independent journalist and theatre critic, Emer O’Kelly: “A remarkable and uplifting piece of theatre, gives everything and asks nothing.”

Gerry Colgan of The Irish Times wrote: “This magnetic revelation of a fascinating character, simply compels a standing ovation.”

And it worked its magneticism here in Castleisland too Gerry.

Aidan Dooley is a native of Galway. He trained at Guilford School of Acting and works as a freelance actor, writer and director in London. Highlights of his career as an actor include‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ – Wyndhams Theatre London. ‘Elegies for Angels’ – Criterion Theatre London. ‘DA’ – White Bear Theatre London. ‘Players and Painted Stage’‘Last Apache Reunion’ – SOS Theatre Bristol. National Tours of ‘Tales of the Lost Formicans’ – Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ .

He first performed ‘Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer’ ten years ago at Siamsa Tire, Tralee for Tom Crean’s family and then at the Medway Fuse Festival followed by The New York International Fringe Festival (Best Solo Show Award Winner). He has also been nominated for awards at The Dublin Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival and The Elliot Norton Theatre Critics Award Boston and in 2006 won the prestigious Fringe First at Edinburgh. He was seen in Galway Girl and Melody (Celctic Coupling) in the UK Fuse Festival. He has toured his new solo show O’Sullivan Beara – The Last Gaelic Chieftain in April / July this year. He has worked for many years developing various performance pieces and historical characters for all the National Museums in England including the National Maritime Museum Greenwich where the idea of a performance on Tom Crean originated.

He is a Co-Director of Play On Words Theatre Company and after this tour Aidan is playing ‘The Ringmaster’ in the under 6’s Christmas Show– ‘The Christmas Adventures of Snowy the Fox.’ at The Brook Theatre Chatham, Kent where his company is based. He lives in Rochester with his wife Miriam and their two children Liam and Nancy. 

– John Reidy, The Maine Valley Post 21-2-2014