TOM CREAN – ANTARCTIC EXPLORER
by Aidan Dooley.
Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London, SE1 8TG To 19 June 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7928 0060.
Review: Martin Franks 19 May.
A masterclass in solo performance.
This play is a tour de force from Aidan Dooley as writer and performer. A show that’s been produced on and off for ten years, it shows no signs of slacking and well deserves all its awards from ‘Best Solo’ performance award at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2003 to Edinburgh Fringe First in 2006.
From the moment Dooley emerges on stage with the turning-on of his explorer’s lamp, he engages the audience with charm and humour, as though he’s the best pub storyteller you could meet. And what a story he has to tell. The detailed exposition of Tom Crean’s three separate journeys to Antarctica, variously with Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott, bring the cold and hardship vividly to life.
Yet it’s not overplayed – which is the cleverness of the piece’s construction, and its performance. Dooley merely has to indicate the strain of pulling the sledge, the insane excitement of sliding down an ice-bound slope towards his possible death or the moment of being forced to shoot the favourite ship’s cat as the explorers all struggle to survive against the ridiculous odds, and we’re completely with him in the moment.
We see all the pictures of a rowing-boat pitching in 30 foot waves, the lonely, dead-tired trudge through a landscape of endless white, the bloated tongue survival stumble across South Georgia’s bleak hinterland as the performer lives them elliptically in front of our eyes.
This is a brilliantly-constructed piece which entices an audience’s involvement like the best stand-up and then switches to show an intense highly-skilled moment of spine-tingling drama. Dooley perfectly judges each level of performance in this masterful creation, his energy sparkling to every corner of this new London venue under the Waterloo arches. Well worth exploring.
Tom Crean: Aidan Dooley.
Lighting: Allan Ramsey/Claire Childs.