Is there another theatre remotely like the Minack anywhere else in the world? This isolated cliff-top theatre is in a location so stunning it can at times feel as if the actors on the stage are having to fight for the audience’s attention, no matter how good the performance.
If the weather is obliging, the Minack feels like a tiny Greek amphitheatre; the sea here seems bluer than elsewhere in Cornwall, the sand of Porthcurno beach below appears whiter. The theatre was carved from the unrelentingly hard granite of the Cornish coast by Rowena Cade; it took many years of hard physical labour through the harsh coastal winters to construct and is a monument to dogged perseverance. The story is told at the Minack’s visitor centre, which is well worth a look even if you don’t see a play.
The season for the Minack is May to September when good weather is more likely but never guaranteed. Being prepared for every eventuality at a Minack performance is important; a big bag with umbrellas, blankets, flasks and extra jackets and jumpers might seem like over-packing – it’s not.
The annual programme is a mix of the well-known – the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe are often on the list – and good regional, and sometimes even amateur, theatre companies. The quality is always high; performers jump through hoops for a chance to get on the Minack stage.
Best known for Shakespeare’s plays, the programme is a lot more diverse than you might think. Pop stars have been known to play here (2013 is the turn of Midge Ure with an acoustic set), all kinds of music is showcased, from classical to folk, and contemporary plays get a look in too.
In the school holidays (including Easter and the half terms), the Minack often puts on daytime storytelling sessions for children, the location adding a lovely sense of magic to inspire young readers. The green-fingered will enjoy the sub-tropical rockeries and there’s a café with quite possibly one of the best views you’ll ever get with a cup of coffee.
The Minack Theatre
Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6JU, Tel. 01736 810181