Minack Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Minack Theatre

Cornwall, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

08 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Minack Theatre

Overlooking the sea at Porthcurno, Cornwall, Minack Theatre is an open-air theatre designed and built by Rowena Cade. A keen enthusiast for Shakespearean theatre, Cade offered up her garden as a performance site in 1932, and together with her gardener built a rough terrace and seating to create a venue.

Today, Minack Theatre continues to be used from Easter to September for a summer season of 20 plays, produced by theatre companies across the UK. Throughout the rest of the year, the theatre is open to visitors who can enjoy stunning views of the Cornish coast from this extraordinary home theatre.

Minack Theatre history

Rowena Cade moved to Cornwall following World War One, building a house for herself and her mother at Minack Point for only £100. Cade’s sister Katharine Burdekin, a feminist dystopian author, lived with them from the 1920s.

In 1929, a group of local players put on a performance of Shakespeare‘s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a nearby meadow. They decided their next play would be ‘The Tempest’ and Cade offered her garden as a venue because it was by the sea – a suitable backdrop for a play beginning with a terrible storm.

Along with her gardener Billy Rawlings, Cade made a terrace theatre through hauling materials from her home or up the steep windy path from the beach. Most of the structure was made from concrete mixed with sand from the beach below.

The theatre was finished in time for a successful performance in 1932, encouraging Cade to continue developing the site for yearly productions, including dressing rooms in 1955.

Minack Theatre today

Today, the Minack Theatre continues to play host to a variety of performances and events. From comedic shows such as ‘The Cameraman’ to musical recitals by the Simon Latarche Quartet, the theatre has much to offer beyond stunning views of the Cornish coast.

The theatre also offers themed tours, including one called ‘Gardening on the Edge’ about the botanical gardens on-site, and a historical tour about Billy and Rowena Cade, both with headsets included. Be aware that walking around the theatre includes steep flights of steps, although there are tours available for those with more limited mobility.

Getting to Minack Theatre

Situated on the most-western tip of the Cornish coast, the Minack Theatre is just off the A30 at Catchall, following Penzance Road to Trethewey and Porthcurno. There is lots of parking. The buses A1 and Land’s End Coaster stop in Porthcurno, a 5 minute walk from the theatre.