One woman, one gardener, two handymen and three decades of lifting rocks have seen the Minack Theatre emerge from the cliff tops above Porthcurno beach.
Rowena Cade began the work of creating the open air amphitheatre in Cornwall in 1931 when she decided it would make the perfect venue for a production of The Tempest the following year. Since then the rocky creation has seen countless plays and musicals despite a lengthy interruption for the Second World War when the area was damaged by the Ministry of Defence as the bay was barricaded against enemy invasion.
The most striking thing about the theatre after the dramatic view is taken in is the steepness of the steps and stairways. Elderly visitors (and particularly the very large ones relying on walking sticks) have a challenging descent down to the performance area. Particular enjoyment is to be had by the more sadistic visitor (of which of course I am not one) of sitting at the bottom of the theatre and watching the immense difficulty the infirm and unsteady have in managing the steps. In 1931 there was no such thing as health and safety regulations, and it is hard to imagine the planning bodies allowing the construction of such a precarious theatre today.
Unfortunately when I was there nobody fell over. Which is just as well as the hospital in Penzance is several miles away along a narrow and twisting lane. However I can imagine there’s been a few mishaps with dodgy knees and wobbly ankles during the shows at night when rain may have made the steps slippery. Then the drama would have been in the audience rather than on the stage.
I must hasten to add these macabre thoughts are not mine – but those of my friend Trilby – and I must obviously distance myself from his blood thirsty sentiments. Well done to Rowena Cade for providing such a dramatic stage and its potential for hospitalising frail and doddery visitors.
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