I had to decide what to do with my third and last day in Penzance before heading back east. I’d heard about the Minack Theatre, set into the side of a cliff looking out over the ocean. Having a love of live theatre, I just had to check it out.
The bus dropped us a short way from a winding road up an almost perpendicular hill. I cringed. Since arriving in Cornwall, I had begun to feel like a mountain goat, constantly hanging off the side of a hill.
I was early, so I bought my ticket, then went back down the hill to head for Porthcurno Cove, the beach below the theatre. I had thought of it as having been used as Nampara Cove, in the 70s version of Poldark. Now I wasn’t so sure, and research on the web hadn’t helped me out. Anyway, it was used in the current series (Ross and Delmelza walked along it having a conversation at some stage), and that was good enough for me.
I wandered down a steep track, stopping for a pleasant chat with one of the locals, a man tending his vegetable garden.
The sun shone and the sea sparkled. People sat with picnics on the sand and children splashed in the water. I hung around for awhile, my camera going mad,
then prepared myself for the climb back up to the road and the climb up to the theatre. There were some steps going all the way up the cliff, but I chose the pathway as easier and probably less stressful, considering there were no railings to hold onto.
The Minack Theatre was designed and built by Rowena Cade, a very theatrically-inclined lady. She bought the the Minack headland in the 1920s for £100 and built a house there for herself and her mother, using granite from St. Levan. She mounted many successful productions in the house and then, in 1932, produced ‘The Tempest’ in the open, in the gully above Minack Rock. The performance was lit by batteries and car headlights.
She continued with her project from then on, doing a lot of the work herself: fetching sand from the beach and carrying huge beams from the shoreline up to the theatre. She worked in all weather until well into her mid-80s. When she died, just before her 90th birthday, she left sketches suggesting how the theatre might be covered on rainy days. I really love this woman.
I was lucky. It was the very last day day of the Minack season. One day later, and I would have missed out. I balked as I realised the steepness of the steps down to my spot closer to the stage. I’ve discovered over the years that my fear of heights is triggered not necessarily by heights but by heights in the open. I’m perfectly alright in a plane.
There was a couple behind me in the same situation, so that made me feel a bit better and I set off, almost crawling while trying to avoid looking at the ocean. Settled safely, I turned around to find the couple behind me had changed their minds and were nowhere to be seen.
The show was Peter Pan and I loved it, though I was constantly worried someone was going to fall over the back of the stage and disappear, never to be seen again, even though I knew there was a bit of land, not visible from the seats, jutting out to stop that happening.
On returning to the bus stop, I discovered with horror that the bus wasn’t due till nearly six o’clock and it was only four-thirty. I didn’t dare wait the time out in the pub up the road as others were doing, in case the bus turned up at an entirely different time, as I’d discovered they do in this part of the world. The hour and a half was taken up chatting with a very nice couple from Derbyshire, who had also made the same discovery as me.
By the time I got back, it was nearly seven o’clock. It was a long day but I loved it.