Crean's adventures prove popular with theatre-goers

Adventure seekers are queuing up to hear the tales of heroic Irish explorer Tom Crean’s efforts to conquer the Antarctic in a play which is still wowing Irish audiences almost a century later.

Adventure seekers are queuing up to hear the tales of heroic Irish explorer Tom Crean’s efforts to conquer the Antarctic in a play which is still wowing Irish audiences almost a century later.

Aidan Dooley, the Galway man behind the one-man show, said the intrepid Antarctic Explorer’s journeys with Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton in the early 1900’s still left people in awe.

Dooley said there was a vast mix of people in the audience of the show ‘Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer’ which is playing Dublin’s Andrews Lane Theatre, fresh from a stint in the US.

“Around 50% of people who have never been to theatre before, these include walkers, climbers, boatsmen and people involved in yachting,” he said, adding the people were new to the theatre‘s mailing lists.

“What this man managed to do was as fantastical as any great events for the last 20-years.”

Crean, born on a farm near Annascaul in Co Kerry, was the only man to serve with Scott and Ernest Shackleton and survive three famous expeditions.

After signing up for the British navy, aged just 15, he ended up taking part in three of the four major British Antarctic expeditions.

He was on the ‘Discovery’, from 1901 to 1904, the ‘Terra Nova’, from 1910 to 1913, and ‘Endurance’ from 1914 to 1916.

Dooley said Crean’s story was a testament to the willpower to battle the elements and survive.

During the disastrous Terra Nova expedition, Crean was forced to trek over 30-miles through a blizzard fuelled with just two sticks of chocolate and three biscuits, to save a comrade‘s life.

Historians have branded it one of the finest feats of individual heroism from the Antarctic explorations.

“People find great optimism in the show. He perseered through fantastical hardship which resonates greatly with modern people,” he said, on the man, who eventually retired from the Navy in 1920 after taking part in World War I.

He went onto open a pub, named the ‘South Pole Inn’, in his native Kerry, and he died aged 61, in 1938.

Dooley said there were major differences between current adventure seekers and the men behind the Antarctic explorations.

“Their adventures, although initially adventures, became survival journeys,” he said.

“Today’s adventurers appreciate the knife-edge of life they were living on,” the actor said, adding that in many people were still taking their life in their hands on challenges.

“They have more first hand experience of what Crean has experienced than I do. I do take them on the journey, it is as if they were there.”

Dooley said there is a tremendous educational element to the true to life heroic tale.

The actor, who tours schools in the UK bringing Crean’s expeditions to life, said the tales of the explorer had recently been added to the history syllabus in Irish schools.

“I would love to do an educational tour of Ireland’s schools,” he said. “That is an avenue I think would be interesting to pursue, maybe in 2007.”

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