The Minack Theatre: Cornwall's world famous gem
Published: Thursday 12th Dec 2013
Written by: Charlie
Cornwall’s Minack Theatre has been celebrated not only for its amazing productions of both classic and contemporary plays but also for the sheer atmosphere its location creates. Set at the cliffs of the small village of Porthcurno, Penzance, the Minack Theatre has attracted theatregoers in large numbers since its creation and looks set to continue to do so for many years to come.
Located just four miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, the theatre is often one of the primary reasons for people to visit the area, with Penzance, Carbis Bay and St Ives holiday cottages always proving popular to this end.
With such a grand structure that looks as though it has been set into the coastal rocks for centuries, many people imagine the Minack Theatre to have been created thousands of years ago when, in reality, it came about much more recently, with the first production taking place at this location in 1932.
The theatre was first conceived by Rowena Cade, who loaned her garden at Minack Point to a local village group theatre company to perform The Tempest. Many have noted the appropriate nature of this first performance as it is not only renowned as a Shakespeare play but the nature of the open air theatre makes it the perfect setting for a play that celebrates nature and the power of the untameable sea.
Cade moved to Cornwall with her mother after the First World War, buying the headland for £100. Later, her sister moved in with them, having returned to England from Australia, but it was Rowena’s love of theatre and set and costume design that provided the vision for the Minack Theatre.
The Minack Theatre has been run by a local management team as a Charitable Trust since 1976.
Most Prominent Performances
Shakespeare plays have always had a significant presence at the Minack, in particular because Rowena, who died in 1983, had a great admiration for his work, and these classics have provided a central focus for each season. Alongside productions of Shakespeare plays, there have also been performances of comedy, opera, mime, ballet and many more genres attempted on this challenging stage.
In addition to much-loved live performances, the Minack Theatre was also the setting for the Gainsborough film ‘Love Story’ that starred Stewart Granger and Margaret Lockwood in 1944. To mark the 75th anniversary of the theatre, a special production of The Tempest was performed in August 2007. The production was directed by Simon Taylor and performed by the Winchester College Players.
Most Prominent Performers
While the theatre supports new and upcoming theatre groups, there have also been a number of well-known names to grace the Minack stage. Welsh pop and opera singer Charlotte Church, prominent author Will Self and Midsomer Murders star John Nettles have all performed here.
Popular current singer KT Tunstall debuted her single ‘Carried’ against the stunning backdrop of the Minack Theatre in May 2013; you can see why she chose this setting by watching this YouTube video of the performance.
While the Minack Theatre has been used for many types of artistic productions, there is much more to discover there besides the performances. The Minack is open for visitors to look around the beautiful open air theatre throughout the open season, which runs from May to September each year.
Tickets for performances can be booked in person Monday to Friday 10am-4pm at the theatre itself, by telephone on +44(0)1736 810181/810471 during the same hours and online at any time. For more information, see their website: minack.com
Image Credits: Jaroslaw Grudzinski (shutterstock.com), EmPemm (flick.com)