The Minack is an open-air theatre that is built into the granite rocks at Porthcurno. A woman called Rowena Cade designed the incredible theatre and undertook a lot of the building and decoration herself.




Building began in 1930

Minack Theatre in Porthcurno
The theatre is carved into the cliff at Porthcurno
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Bought for £100

Rowena Cade moved to Cornwall with her mother after the First World War and bought the rocky headland at Minack (from meynek, meaning “rocky place” in Cornish) for £100 to build a house there. Rowena became involved in local theatre and in 1930 she started to plan a theatre in her garden. With the help of her gardeners Billy Rawlings and Charles Angove, she shaped the theatre seating and stage from the rock. 

Tempestuous performance

In the summer of 1932, William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was performed against the backdrop of Porthcurno’s dramatic seascape. Rowena made some of the costumes herself and only batteries and car headlights lit the play. The audience had to buy their tickets from a table in the garden and then scramble down a narrow path to the theatre.

Concrete and sand

There were performances at the Minack every summer and during the winter Rowena and her gardeners continued to improve and expand the theatre. Using sand brought all the way up from the beach, Rowena invented a way of making the theatre look like stone, even though most of it is made from concrete and cement.  She decorated the seats with the names of plays, performances and Celtic designs before the concrete set.

Rowena Cade at the Minack Theatre in 1982
Rowena Cade, creator of the Minack Theatre, in 1982
Reproduced courtesy of Andrew Besley as featured on cornishmemory.com

World wonder

During the Second World War, the theatre was given over to the army, who used it as a lookout post. After the war, Rowena started to restore and rebuild the theatre, again with the help of Billy Rawlings. They built a new road, car park and a flight of 90 steps leading from the beach at Porthcurno to the theatre. In 2014, the Minack Theatre was selected as one of the most spectacular theatres in the world.

What play would you like to see performed at the Minack? Do you think Rowena Cade was influenced by the shape of the Cornish plen-an-gwary?

A performance at the Minack Theatre in the 1980s, with Rowena Cade seated
A performance at the Minack Theatre in the 1980s
Reproduced courtesy of Andrew Besley as featured on cornishmemory.com

Did you know?

There is only one granite seat in the whole theatre. Rowena Cade dedicated it to the gardener Billy Rawlings, who died in 1966.

After the Second World War, during the theatre’s restoration, the gun-post was converted into the new box office.



The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Gapper, S, ‘The Minack Theatre, Cornwall’, History Extra (Feb 2012)

The Telegraph

Johnston, P, ‘Carved in granite, the Minack Theatre was more than merely a stage for Miss Cade’, The Telegraph (15 Aug 2013)

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