We visited the World Famous Minack Theatre at Porthcurno this week on a glorious February day that felt like summer – maybe that is where the phrase “summer in February” came from. The Cornish have a name for these special days – they call them “a day lent” and we took full advantage of the gift, as the car nosed its way between the tall Cornish banks, already laced with daffodils, deep into the wilder countryside of the West Penwith Peninsula.
The Minack Theatre a very Cornish fantasy
The Minack Theatre can only be described as a spectacular fantasy, a Cornish dream started by one woman Rowena Cade at the bottom of her garden that just happened to lead to fabulous outcrops of rocks hovering over the silky white sands of Porthcurno sheltered by Logan Rock jutting out into the ocean.
These dreams can happen in Cornwall sometimes, take The Eden project for instance described by our Garden designer Ian, as the sort of thing the people dream of in the pub on a Friday night but forget on Saturday morning. But some dreams become reality and lead to a lifetime’s passion and inheritance for the next generations, a fantasy or us to explore and the Minack Theatre is one of them.
Our visit to the Minack on a day lent
We haven’t ventured too far from the farm on the short winter days and it felt like a breath of fresh air as we left Penzance behind accompanied by spring daffodils this time, in contrast to the drift of golden leaves that had accompanied us in our last foray to Lamorna cove in the autumn.
The car park was surprisingly full when we arrived but of course it was half term and the neat entrance to the Theatre is already laced with exotic planting and reveals a glimpse of the perfect sandy bays stretching away below, with a beguiling sign declaring Public Footpath but out destination lay through the welcoming entrance doors that led to the theatre.
Exploring the Minack Theatre
The steeply sloped amphitheatre is tucked, shoehorned and spread over the cliffs – precipitously steep in places and interspersed with balconies. As I glanced nervously around for handrails I quickly abandoned the left hand route I had chosen and found the right hand side circumnavigating a tiny tower much easier to edge my way around.
Each tier of seating leading inexorably down to the surprising domestically proportioned stage and as this is the Minack, the product of a fantasy, if you explore beyond this there is a tiny sheltered arched arbour below, carved into the cliff just above the churning ocean for a perfect moment of calm contemplation of this extraordinary construction.
The view from the Minack over Porthcurno – it must be one of the most beautiful in Cornwall
I took this tiny video further from one of the balconies of the fabulous view of the great granite outcrop topped by Logan’s Rock and the sands of Pedn Vounder beach almost merging with Porthcurno Beach cushioned by the sand dunes above.
From the stage the tiered seating rose to dizzy heights above me and the names of famous productions carved into the backs of the grander front rows and I saw the year of my birth on one of them quite near to the front – oh dear!
Weaving my way back up the cliff to the top though the grassy terraces and realising there is a peculiar logic to the seating plan but I would hate to organise seating the audiences for the Theatre performances!
Impressions and details from my visit to the Minack Theatre
Sub tropical Gardens
For garden lovers it is a real bonus to climb higher above the Theatre and dig-zag through the garden terraces slightly reminiscent of the cliff gardens of St Michael’s Mount. The warm bowl of granite rocks acts of the Minack Theatre acts as a natural radiator and is packed with sub tropical planting that had weathered the winter surprising well. It was a perfect spot to relax on one of the benches for a moment of peaceful contemplation of the dramatic theatre below and extraordinary seascape of rolling waves from the warm seclusion of the garden.
Visiting the Minack
The Minack is open daily for visitors to explore but closed except to theatre goers when performances are taking place (normally in the afternoon and evening.) They have an eclectic mix of plays each season from March until the final Proms in September and remember the “show must go one” so performances are seldom cancelled for drizzly rain, warm rain, driving rain or gales but I have heard a bin bag is good for keeping the feet dry. So pack a picnic and arrive early to soak up the atmosphere and remember the temperature will drop at night above the sea – those fabulous Agaves can survive in the massive temperature variations of the desert!
Sad to leave
We were sad to leave the perfect fantasy of the combination of Theatre and nature that make up the extraordinary experience of visiting the Minack but the drive back toward Penzance through St Buryan beside fields of daffodils and glossy black cattle eased us back to reality and we arrive home to find two cats sunbathing on a bench beside the front door. But you know nestling in my purse is a free readmission voucher to return as many times as I would like over the next twelve months, so I think I may become a regular soaking up the fabulous fantasy world of the Minack Theatre!