Friday, February 24, 2006

Aidan Dooley's Crean

Aidan Dooley is certainly best known round these parts for his blockbusting show, Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer. But the actor’s repertoire of historical characters extends far beyond that, from the greats of science to, well, “Thomas Crapper…he invented the siphonic flushing toilet. Or at least, he is credited with inventing it. It was, in fact, possibly invented by a man called Giblin. But Crapper’s name stuck…” So to speak.

With his own company and the British group, Spectrum Theatre Projects, Dooley (who was born in Galway) creates historical characters for museums all around Britain, adding a touch of live storytelling to museum visits.

It was in the course of one of these commissions that Dooley first came to create his Crean show. “In Greenwich in 2000 they were having a big exhibition and they wanted a character from the Antarctic expeditions. They wanted an ordinary person, because the British are not really all that happy with those upper class characters, like Scott and Shackleton, who were a bit aloof. And so the idea of basing the story on this Irish sailor who was with them came about.”

Soon afterwards Michael Smith’s book on Crean appeared and Dooley worked up his Greenwich character into a full evening’s theatre, which has since toured widely and even inspired a celebrated commercial. Dooley, as it happens, was not selected for the role of Crean in the commercial – “I’m too ugly for that” – but is grateful for the marketing job the spot performed.

“The ad really took Crean from the broadsheets and into public knowledge. Which in turn encouraged lots of people to come along and see the show,” says Dooley.

After his new run as Crean, Dooley will be back on the trail of another currently little known Irishman who may yet become rather famous:

“I’m looking at a character called “Melville of the Yard”: an Irishman from Sneem who became head of the British secret service and became known as…M.”

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