Rocking the Cradle – Tarragon Theatre

By: Darryl D’Souza

rocking the cradle pic 1

The RCA Theatre Company’s presentation of Rocking the Cradle at Tarragon Theatre is, overall, a good piece of theatre.  It wasn’t brilliant, but if you check it out, you may very well learn something profound about human existence from it.

Rocking the Cradle is freely adapted from Spanish poet/dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca’s surrealist masterpiece Yerma by Canadian poet/writer Des Walsh.  The story succeeds in part because of it’s universal nature.

Walsh, a Newfounlander, has transposed it from a remote region of Spain to a remote Newfoundland fishing village.  In fact, Rocking the Cradle had its first run in St. Johns earlier this year. 

The story has a timelessness to it.  Lorca wrote Yerma in the 1930’s, Walsh’s Rocking the Cradle took place in the sixties, but it could very well have taken place in 2009.  In fact, as I watched Rocking the Cradle I was oblivious to the fact that the play took place in the 1960s.  I only discovered this fact by looking over the playbill when I got home.   While the person who accompanied me, Angela, who was alive in the sixties said she picked up on the era right away.

Though based on a surrealist work, Rocking the Cradle is more like a magical realist play.  It has a realistic story with realistic characters and a drama that ensues in a logical and rational fashion.  There are however, supernatural elements that could never actually happen alongside the gritty realism.

The acting and story were realistic, with singing and impressive special effects pulling me out into somewhere otherworldly.  There’s certainly a division between the real and unreal parts of the play.

The special effects used to create the otherworldly feeling were quite impressive, neither Angela nor I had ever seen anything like them.  A screen in front of the actors was used throughout the play to project otherworldly images, in the form of: massive waves, vast expanses of forests, and windstorms.

Walsh’s writing was good, as was the acting, especially the main character Joan played by Ruth Lawrence.  But, although the sound was used quite effectively and deftly, both Angela and I agreed that the main problem with the show was the music.  The songs were traditional ballads sung by generations of Newfoundlanders, but I didn’t enjoy the actual singing of them at all.  As I said, the acting was certainly up to par, but I’d say the singing was quite mediocre.

Singing aside, there is something profound about this play.  Having read Lorca’s Yerma, I’m certain Walsh was able to add something meaningful himself to the piece through his adaptation.  That said, if you’re only going to go see one play this year, this isn’t the one I’d recommend.  However, if you’re a frequent theatregoer and you decide to see it, I think you’ll be quite satisfied with Rocking the Cradle.

Details:                                                                                                                                             –Rocking the Cradle is playing from Wed. Nov. 11 until Sun. Dec 13, 2009 at the Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgeman Avenue).                                                             -Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday Matinee at 2:30 pm -Ticket Prices start at $19; Senior’s and Students’ prices available. Friday night and Sunday matinee rush tickets are only $10.                                                   -Tickets are available online at For Box office and information call: (416) 531-1827.

Photo of: Kate Corbett, Monica Walsh, Didi Gillard-Rowlings, Jane Dingle, Greg King, Ruth Lawrence, Darryl Avalon-Hopkins [Courtesy of Tarragon website]