Newest Review: ... jewellery and a selection of the plants that grow in the sub-tropical garden. Performances at the Minack Theatre are usually held fr... more
A cliffhanging experience
Member Name: southwind
Date: 24/09/01, updated on 24/09/01 (188 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful location, beach nearby, professional productions
Disadvantages: Isolated, hard seats, seagulls
The Minack Theatre, near the town of Porthcurno on the south coast of Cornwall, is truly a magical place. Built almost completely by a woman originally from Cheltenham by the name of Rowena Cade (1893-1983), it not only is an exotic theatre with a summer season of seventeen weeks, but also has an interesting visitor’s centre and a collection of sub-tropical plants thrown into the bargain. Cut out of the cliffs, overlooking the ocean, it’s a nice place to visit at any time of year… although in my opinion, I’m not sure if anywhere in England is pleasant to visit in winter.
* * * The Theatre * * *
Rowena began the theatre itself in 1929 when she organised a village play to be held in an almost natural amphitheatre. With an enormous amount of hard work and dedication she converted the cliff face into organised row upon row of rock seating. Over many years it has developed under her hands and eventually others as well into the current 750 seat modern auditorium. Each year from mid-May to mid-September, outdoor productions of Shakespeare classics, opera, musicals and traditional plays are staged in this unique setting. This year a total of seventeen different productions were squeezed into this seemingly short amount of time.
I visited the area at the end of May while travelling with a friend of mine also from Australia. We had spent the day on the beach in St. Ives, trying to find some proper sunshine and sand, and managed to take the public bus that goes almost directly to the theatre. It is
possible to do this, as the length of the production meant we would be able to catch the LAST bus back to Penzance. Probably not a good idea when seeing longer shows. While we were there they were showing a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” which is always good fun to sing along to and annoy your neighbours, so we went along with hopes of embarrassing ourselves totally.
With no chance of seat reservation (not for the regular tourists like us anyway) you must line up outside the theatre an hour and a half before ‘curtain-up’ to attempt to secure a good view. Mad rush!! Actually I was a little disappointed it was so orderly and civil… a few elbows here and there couldn’t have gone astray. Since you get there so early, it is advisable to bring a picnic too. It’s a pleasant enough place to have one, and we felt rather left out with our packet of co-op biscuits while the group behind us munched on fresh vegetables and gourmet dips and crisps. We’re poor GAP students, I should point out we were also camping in someone’s backyard in Penzance to save money!
Things are all comfortable and great and we’re enjoying the show, until the sun disappears totally. Then it gets cold. Luckily we had planned ahead and brought my sleeping bag… with which I apparently scored high on the opinion poll of my friend, and then lost those points (and more… it was the first time I had gone into negative opinion) when trying to mash it back into its bag and preventing my entire row from leaving. Oh well. Seriously bring warm things though as it does get cold. And the seats (as they are made of stone) are not too comfy after a long period of time. We used our beach towels… they didn’t quite work plus they made our bums wet, so if you have a chance to then bring cushions. It is possible to hire some there.
* * * The Visitor’s Centre * * *
The Visitor’s Centre
is open all year round and guides you through the story of Rowena and her grand visions as well as many photographs, displays and models of past productions and the theatre throughout its various stages of creation. Plus if you get bored of the extremely close and secluded beach, it’s only a short walk up the hillside to the café and gift shop which are also worth a visit if only for the view and nothing else.
* * * Odds and Ends * * *
The Centre is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm April to September, and 10am to 4pm from October to March. The costs of these visits are £2.50 for Adults, £1 for students, £1.80 for seniors and free for children under the age of 12. Plus they allow you to return for free anytime up until March 2002.
Evening performances usually start at around 8pm, and there are some matinees that start about 2pm. Ticket prices for shows are either £6.50 or £5.50 for adults and half price for children under 16. So even we could afford it!
Further information from www.minack.com and future programmes can be obtained by sending a self-addressed envelope to The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6JU.
And you may have gathered I don’t like seagulls very much. But don’t worry, I don’t really feed them aspirin. :)
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