The Minack has hosted live theatre performances throughout its ninety-year history, apart from a ten year break around the Second World War.
At first there was one annual production, created especially for the theatre, but quickly the number of shows expanded as more and more companies wanted to perform here. By the early sixties, the Minack was welcoming productions from all over the country. Today our normal season runs from Easter to late October and we even have outdoor shows at Christmas.
Putting on a play at the Minack is a challenge for companies. They have to build sets that can withstand wind and weather. Flimsy draperies or fragile props can be a real problem for designers.
There’s no lift or hoist to move sets and furniture. Everything has to be carried from the car park to the stage by hand. Over the years the Minack has seen some extraordinary items come down the cliff, from motorbikes to caravans. But mostly sets are built onsite, in very limited time and whatever the weather conditions.
In the early days, the stage was made of turf and over a summer it would get worn or slippery with mud. During the 1960s Rowena created the multi-coloured concrete hexagons that tile the stage and are a distinctive feature of our theatre.
The shape of our stage is very unusual. It’s much wider at one side than the other and, unlike most theatres, the slope, or rake, of the stage is away from the audience, so that the back is slightly lower than the front. This, combined with the steep terracing of the seats, means that performers have to look upwards all the time, so that the audience can see their faces. They also have to stand much further back on the stage than in a traditional theatre in order to be seen properly. Because the theatre was built around natural rock formations, the sightlines, or parts of the stage visible to the whole audience, are much tighter than in a purpose-built theatre. For example, the beautiful sweep of steps at the back of the circular platform is invisible to most of the audience.
Take the steps to your right down to the stage level. Cross the stage and walk between the two pillars at the back of the stage. Take the steps down to the backstage path.