Minack Theatre : explore Cornwall’s clifftop theatre and gardens

PUBLISHED: 16:23 14 July 2020

The Minack Open Air Theatre has the world's best backdrop Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Minack Open Air Theatre has the world's best backdrop Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jeremy Richards

Built mostly by hand into a 90ft high cliffside, the Minack Theatre has opened its gardens to visitors

The Minack Theatre has improved accessibility for patrons with disabilitiesThe Minack Theatre has improved accessibility for patrons with disabilities

Cornwall’s world famous Minack theatre is literally carved out of the rock in a stunning position overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The impressive outdoor arena is, by its very nature, rugged and rocky. Happily the trustees have been working over the last few years to improve facilities for the less able and to create a seating area accessible for wheelchairs for anyone with limited mobility to be part of the theatre audience, without negotiating the many steps in the main auditorium area.

Last year the Minack introduced British Sign Language signed performances and easy to use audio assistance headsets for people with hearing loss and this year they planned to extend the number of signed performances and an audio described service for people with visual impairments during the season to include a greater choice of plays. Sadly, the 2020 season has been cancelled although visitors can have some access to the Minack after the easing of some covid-19 regulations.

Visitors to the Minack are encouraged to bring cushions. Getty Images/iStockphotoVisitors to the Minack are encouraged to bring cushions. Getty Images/iStockphoto

You can see a new 180° moving panorama which creates the experience of being in the theatre without having to climb the 90 steps down to the stage and a Virtual Reality headset to help people with limited mobility explore the theatre from their seat.

“The Minack is an iconic part of Cornwall’s heritage,” says Minack’s Executive Director Zoë Curnow. “Watching a show perched on a cliff a hundred feet or more above the sea with several hundred other people is something very special. We want as many people as possible to be able to share the experience of being part of a Minack audience.

Minack Theatre is constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea. Getty Images/iStockphotoMinack Theatre is constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea. Getty Images/iStockphoto

“That is why the trustees are so keen to provide as many aids as we can to ensure that everyone who wishes to can enjoy a performance here, and we want to get the word out that we are an accessible theatre.”

The Minack is gradually re-opening following the easing of lockdown restrictions. Storytelling sessions for families are planned for August.

See before you go on their web cam https://www.minack.com/minack-live

Did you know?

Minack means a rocky place, ‘meynek’ in Cornish

The stage was once a sloping cliff, knee deep in gorse, with a ninety-foot drop to the sea behind.

Its builder Rowena Cade arrived in Cornwall in the early 1920s and Minack headland for £100 and built her home, Minack House, which is still there.

The first performance was in 1929 when Rowena offered the use of her cliff-top gardens for an open-air production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was such a success that the company repeated the production the following year.

The theatre was built largely by hand (and the occasional stick of dynamite) and completed in 1931.

Much of the concrete in the structure was built using sand from the beach below.

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