The cliffs of Minack form the most exciting natural amphitheatre in England. A Long time ago Rowena Cade, a thirty six year old Derbyshire woman, came wilth her widowed mother to live at Porthcurno. A troupe of amateur actors were performing A midsummer Night’s Dream in a local meadow. So entranced was cade that she suggested next year The Tempest on a cliff ledge at the foot of her garden at a spot called Minack, Corninsh for rock place. A rudimentary stage was built and lighting supplied from car batteries and a wire from the house. As the moom rose on the setting that first evening, Cade knew she had found magic.
Cade and Her gardeners slowly transformed the Cliffside into a Greek theatre.Granite boulders were levered into place, concrete poured and timbers hauled up the slopes, Cade doing much of the work herself. The result is not just a feat of engineering but the most dramastic of theatrical backdrops. The actors perform in front of two great rocks and a backdrop of wave capped sea. Gulls cry overhead. The birds are distracting for the audience at first, but they and the setting gradually fuse nature and drama into one experience. Only during the war did performaces cease.
Among other interests, cade was intrigued by the Botanical Challenge of her site, sunny most of the time and sheltered from the prevailing south west wind. Exotic were imported to see whether they could survive the salt – laden air, planted in among the theatre’s seats and ties. They include Bird of paradise trees from Africa, Californian poppies, aeoniums from the Canary Isles, Agaves from Mexico and Madeira geraniums.
The only threat to Minack is from Cornwall’s planners. They have allowed rows of holiday Homes to break the cliff horizon in almost every direction