Tom Crean (1877-1938) the intrepid Antarctic explorer and one of Ireland’s unsung heroes is brought to life in this dramatic and humorous solo performance by Aidan Dooley.

Hear the riveting true stories of Crean’s Antarctic explorations as one of the few men to serve with both Scott and Shackleton and survive three famous expeditions: Discovery, (1901 – 1904); Terra Nova (1910 – 1913); and Endurance (1914 – 1916).

Crean’s story is a testament of human fortitude against all the elements of Antarctic, his 36 mile, solitary trek to base camp during the Terra Nova expedition to rescue his comrades Teddy Evans and William Lashly has been described by Antarctic historians as “the finest feat of individual heroism from the entire age of exploration”.

Listen To Tom Crean Show Audio Extracts

Audio Extract 1:

Audio Extract 2:


About Tom Crean, The Man

Born 1877 in Kerry, Ireland. Joined the Royal Navy at 15 years of age. Served on “Discovery” from 1901 – 1904 and “Terra Nova” 1910 – 1913 under Captain Robert Scott and from 1914 – 1916 served on “Endurance” under Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Survived for months trapped on the ice floes after the ship was crushed and journeyed with Shackleton and four others in a 21-foot lifeboat, across the South Atlantic (800 miles). They scaled the uncharted glaciers of South Georgia to reach help for their stricken colleagues left behind. Received the “Albert Medal” for bravery.

Returned to UK in 1916 to serve out the remaining time of WW1 and was medically discharged in 1919. He married a local Irish girl from Annascaul called Nell, and returned home to Ireland. They brought up two daughters Mary and Eileen. Sadly their middle daughter Kate died aged 4 in 1924. He remained in Annascaul, where he ran a public house with Nelle, until his death in 1938 of a burst appendix, aged 61.

About Aidan Dooley

Aidan is from 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 has worked for many years developing various performance pieces and historical characters for all the National Museums in England including the National Maritime Museum. He is an Associate Lecturer in drama at Canterbury Christ Church University. He lives in Rochester with his wife Miriam and has two children Liam and Nancy.


Journey of The Play

Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer written and performed by Aidan Dooley premiered at Medway Fuse Festival in 2003 and then onto The New York International Fringe Festival, where it won the ‘Best Solo Performance Award’. In the same year the show played the Dublin Fringe Festival, where it picked up a ‘Best Actor Nomination’.

The show originated from a fifteen minute Living History performance on Tom Crean created by the Aidan Dooley for London’s National Maritime Museum’s Antarctic Exhibition ‘South’ in 2001. Following the publication of Michael Smith’s book about Tom Crean called ‘Unsung Hero’ the show was developed over a two year period with several small tryout performances in Ireland, including a performance in front of Crean’s remaining family at the Tom Crean Society’s memorial in Annascaul.

Between 2004 and 2005 the show toured to over 30 venues across Ireland, and also played two sell-out seasons at the Northern Stage Theatre Vermont, USA.

2006 saw the show return to the USA playing a sell-out three week season at The Sugan Theatre at Boston Centre for the Arts where the show was nominated for an ‘Outstanding Solo Performance Award’ at that years’ Elliot Norton, Boston Theatre Critics Awards. The show then returned to Ireland to play the first of two sell-out, five week seasons at Andrews Lane Theatre Dublin, the second season following the triumphant success at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where the show won a Fringe First Award.

In 2007 after it sell-out success at the Brighton Festival, the show returned to Ireland to play two capacity weeks at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, before travelling to the Adelaide Fringe Festival Australia, via seasons in Florida, Vermont, Malta, Dubai and Geneva. It then went back to the USA to play an eight week sell-out season at the Award Winning Irish Repertory Theatre in New York before returning to the UK to complete a four week UK tour.

2008 year saw the production receive its London premier at the New End Theatre, where it played a six week limited run to capacity houses and got awarded the Time Out Critics Choice before returning to Dublin for a third sell-out week engagement at the Olympia Theatre which, by popular demand, then transferred to the Gaiety Theatre Dublin for a further two weeks.

From 2008 the show continued to tour extensively both in Ireland and Internationally. In 2013, it’s first tour of N. Ireland, the Olympia Dublin for the sixth time, completed an Irish tour including Cork’s Everyman Theatre for the seventh visit . In 2014 the show was seen in New Zealand at the International Arts Festival and it begins 2015 with a return ‘by popular demand’ to tour UK and Ireland.


Play on Words Theatre was formed in 1990 and is based at The Brook Theatre, Chatham, Kent UK with support from Medway Council.

The company has produced:

  • May’ (formerly Sister Queens) tours of N. Ireland and Scotland
  • Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer (2001-15), touring Ireland, UK, Australia, USA, New Zealand including a Fringe First @ The Edinburgh Festival ’06
  • Galway Girl and Melody for Medway Fuse Festival 2009. It toured Ireland in 2011-2013 with:
  • Our Last Chieftain – O’Sullivan Beara

Play on Words Theatre’s educational arm has toured Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and numerous workshop performances on many of Shakespeare’s other plays as well as performances on science and history for schools. It runs drama summer schools in the Channel Islands and is resident directing company for The Brook Youth Theatre, Chatham.

Its production ‘Only Prostitutes Marry in May’ (the relationship between Qn. Eliz 1 & Mary Qn of Scots) was seen in 2012 at Waterloo East Theatre, London, where it received a nomination in the ‘off West-End’ awards for best female performance.

It has co-produced the acclaimed and highly successful Christmas shows for 3-6 year olds with The Creatives @ The Brook Theatre, Chatham, 2010-2014.

Visit Play On Words Theatre