“Meynek” in Cornish actually means “rocky place” and if you attend a performance or take a daytime tour of the Minack Theatre, you will see why the name is so appropriate. You can also check out this amazing place via webcam.
A summer run
The open-air Minack Theatre season only runs from May to September and I have attended a number of events. Perhaps the most moving was the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir performance, although I have also attended comedy and musicals. You would think that the acoustics in the open air would be lost; drowned out by the sea far below, but in fact the sound is excellent. In addition, I found the atmosphere as the sun slowly goes down is a truly spellbinding experience.
I booked my tickets online and then drove down in the afternoon for the early evening performance of “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” by the Miracle Theatre Company. There are some afternoon performances, but the evening provides the best atmosphere as the sun sets over the cliffs and sea. Allow plenty of time for slow summer traffic as you drive to Porthcurno, as it is very close to Land's End.
Ignore the public car park in the lovely village of Porthcurno, and follow the signs up the steep hill to the official Minack Theatre car park. It was easy to park and I was directed to a space within easy walking distance of the theatre. You must take a blanket and cushions to sit on, for sure, as the tiered “seats” are simply a grass-topped stone wall.
A good view all around
However, such is the steep pitch that wherever you sit, the view of the “stage” will be good. If you think the weather may turn bad, take raincoats and hats. Umbrellas are not advised as no-one behind would be able to see. Other than that, just keep your fingers crossed and check the forecast before booking your tickets if you feel the weather really matters. Shows are very rarely cancelled unless a huge storm is evident. So far I have been lucky every time I have visited.
When I first saw the theatre, the beautiful cove and cliff setting took my breath away, even though I knew in theory what to expect. It is such a lovely peaceful position. The banks of 750 seats run down the hillside and look outward towards the sea. They overlook the performance area far below which has archways off to the behind the scenes bits. There are different levels that the performances take place on, and apart from some minimal stage pieces, all the performances have no real “scenery” or backdrop. After all, it would spoil the view that nature has provided.
A picnic on the terrace
I got there early, and like many other theatre-goers I took a picnic and cold drinks and had a picnic enjoying the stunning setting before the performance began. To me, it was all part of the Minack experience. There is a café with wonderful views which is pretty busy serving take-out meals, and there are a couple of places to buy drinks and snacks in the interval.
If you can't fit in a performance, you can visit this unique theatre during the day. Learn the amazing story of how the theatre was the vision of Rowena Cade back in 1929. There is an excellent exhibition of models, photographs and audio-visual presentations and I found the history very inspirational and moving. I also enjoyed the gardens. All around the rocky theatre auditorium are salt-tolerant succulent plants in a wonderful sub-tropical rock garden setting which are well worth seeing in late spring and summer.
Are you one of the 80,000 visitors who attend performances each summer at the Minack Theatre? We'd love to hear about your visit. Can you recommend other unusual theatres that readers may similarly enjoy? Let us know in the box below.