The Minack Theatre is an open-air theatre, constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea. The theatre is at Porthcurno, 4 miles from Land’s End. The season runs each year from May to September. It has appeared in a listing of the world’s most spectacular theatres.
The theatre was the brainchild of Rowena Cade, who moved to Cornwall after the First World War and built a house for herself and her mother on land at Minack Point for £100. Her sister was the feminist dystopian author Katharine Burdekin and her partner lived with them from the 1920s. In 1929, a local village group of players had staged Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a nearby meadow at Crean, repeating the production the next year. They decided that their next production would be The Tempest and Miss Cade offered the garden of her house as a suitable location, as it was beside the sea. Miss Cade and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, made a terrace and rough seating, hauling materials down from the house or up via the winding path from the beach below. In 1932, The Tempest was performed with the sea as a dramatic backdrop, to great success. Miss Cade resolved to improve the theatre, working over the course of the winter months each year throughout her life (with the help of Billy Rawlings and Charles Angove) so that others might perform each summer.
In 1944, the theatre was used as a location for the Gainsborough Studios film Love Story, starring Stewart Granger and Margaret Lockwood but inclement weather forced them to retreat to a studio mock-up. In 1955, the first dressing rooms were built. In the 1970s, the theatre was managed by Lawrence Shove. Since 1976 the theatre has been registered as a Charitable Trust and is now run by a local management team. Rowena Cade died on 26 March 1983, at the age of 89.