The Minack Theatre
This is the Minack Theatre:
It can be found at Porthcurno in Cornwall (<3) so it’s waaaay down at the bottom of England.
"Minack" in Cornish, a language sadly long dead but kind of reviving …. it’s complicated, means "a rocky place" which fits this theatre beautifully.
It was built (and by built I don’t just mean paid for) by an awesome lady called Rowena Cade.
Admittedly she is not ‘technically’ Cornish, having been born in Derbyshire, but for what she did for the county definitely makes her one of us.
She moved down to Cornwall after the first world war and bought a piece of headland for £100 on which she built a house.
The year is 1929 and Rowena and her family take on the task of performing an open air Midsummer Night’s Dream in a meadow. The show was so popular that they went back to it again a year later.
Following this, it was suggested that The Tempest would be a play that work wonderfully with the coastal backdrop. Cade apparently was willing to donate her garden but felt that getting an audience in there would be tricky. So instead she turned her sights onto the gully above Minack Rock.
It took six months over a particularly cruel winter for Cade and two good ol’ Cornish lads to get a rough semblance of a stage and auditorium but in 1932, The Minack saw its first performance of The Tempest.
Rowena didn’t stop here. She could imagine something even better. So she began slowly cutting and shaping granite by hand to create her vision. The work continued for the next seven years but with the outbreak of another War meant that the cliff had to be cleared for defence reasons and her work was lost.
Undeterred, she began again. By the 1950s she and her gardener, Billy Rawlings had not only built a theatre but also a car park, access road and a 90 step stairway from the beach. When Rawlings passed away in 1966, she inscribed the only granite seat in his memory.
The Minack Theatre’s auditorium displays its theatrical history in its very rock. Cade, using the tip of a screwdriver, would write the name and dates of productions into the cement before it dried.
Shakespeare is somewhat of a speciality for the Minack - Cade loved the Bard and the backdrop provides a stunning setting for any production. This theatre really is a treasure for us Cornish and if you ever have the chance to go even just to see the architecture, do. It’s a very special place.