It’s one of Cornwall’s most iconic destinations – the Minack theatre draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Whether you watch a show, or simply go to look around, this is a truly special place that will not disappoint.
The theatre was a labour of love, created by Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House at the top of the cliffs where the theatre now resides. Assisted by her gardener, Rowena wanted to create a space for drama enthusiasts. After a great deal of hard work, the theatre’s first production took place in 1932 and was of course Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch a number of shows at the Minack, the most recent being The Secret Garden during the school Easter Holidays. Performed by the Minack’s own troupe including members from their Youth Theatre, it was a fantastic production. I took our 7 year old who was just the right age to enjoy the show and deal with the chilly, wild weather. Our one year old stayed at home!
From a stage management point of view, it’s fascinating to see how the Minack manage, as there’s very little back stage space and the weather can be very unpredictable. Every prop must be well thought through so it doesn’t simply take off in the gust of wind.
If you want to see a show but you’re worried how the weather will affect things – the show will go on despite the weather. The actors all wear microphones so even if it’s gale force wind, you can hear every word. The tickets are fairly affordable, so the audience can make a last minute decision for themselves as to whether it’s worth braving the elements.
If you’re considering watching a show, here’s a few top tips:
You can never be too prepared for the weather! When we went to the Secret Garden, a number of the audience left at the interval as they were too cold. It’s the top of a Cornish cliff! It can be very windy, very wet, and very cold, especially for children. You’re sitting for 2-3 hours exposed to the elements. Wear layers, always bring a coat, and unless it’s a hot summers day, a wool hat and scarf are easy to pack in your bag even if you don’t wear them. Always take a decent warm blanket, even in summer. We also take a picnic blanket with a waterproof backing to shelter under if the rain comes in. Bin liners to climb inside if it gets really bad…..yes really!
Bring a cushion. The seating is generally terraced grass. A cushion will keep you dry, warm and more comfortable. Cushions with back rests can be hired from the Minack.
In the summer months, use the Minack’s alternative road route via Sennen. It’s a much wider and less congested route. It doesn’t take any longer than the more direct route via the village of St Buryan and will save you having to que at all the bottlenecks.
Allow at least 30 minutes before the show starts to get parked (there’s plenty), through the gates and down to your seat. We always make use of the facilities before finding our seats – it’s a long way back up all the steps to use them in the interval.
Bring your own food and drink. We always pick up a pasty on our way down so we have something warm and filling to eat. A flask is another essential.
Try and stay in your seat during the interval. The terraces are tightly packed and it can be tricky to maneuver. Tripping over or simply being blown by gusts of wind onto a total stranger is not unusual! I’ve lost count of how often I’ve seen people accidentally fling food or drink across the audience while making their way back to their seats.
No matter what the weather, this is a theatre like none other. It’s an adventure and who doesn’t love an adventure.
Want to visit the Minack – you can get more information at www.minack.com