Our history

Carving a theatre from a cliff

The theatre which you see today has seen big changes over the past eighty years but if a member of the audience from the very first performance on 16 August 1932 were to visit the theatre today, they’d certainly recognise the place.

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Crean 1929

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Crean 1929

In 1929, local drama enthusiasts put on an out-door performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a grassy meadow about a mile inland from the Minack. It was a great success and a couple of years later the players were looking for a venue to perform The Tempest.

The original Minack stage for The Tempest in 1932

The original Minack stage for The Tempest in 1932

 

Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House, decided that the cliffs below her garden would be the perfect setting, and over the winter of 1931 and into 1932 she and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, moved endless granite boulders and earth, creating the lower terraces of the theatre, much as they are today.

The cast of The Tempest 1932

The cast of The Tempest 1932

 

The Tempest was a big success, even gaining a positive review in The Times, and over the next few years Rowena and her gardeners made many improvements, building a throne for Antony and Cleopatra and creating the beginnings of the stage structures you see today. The stage was still grass-covered, players changed in Minack House, and the audience bought their tickets from a trestle table before clambering down steep slopes to the theatre.