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17 March 2014

Project launched to explore Cornwall’s historic theatres

Cornwall holidays are always a joy, but sometimes they’re made extra special by certain trips or days out.

For many the special factor of their trip to the Duchy is a visit to the spectacular Minack Theatre at Porthcurno.

That’s because the one of a kind open air theatre is hewn from a cliff face and offers spectacular views of the Atlantic – but it may not be long before it’s no longer quite so unique.

There was once a time when Cornwall was home to dozens of other outdoor theatres, although they were usually fields with a circular wall or hedge around them.

Historian Rod Lyon believes there may once have been as many as 200 theatres, known as playing places, in Cornwall.  However, he also says few remain as the theatres were often pulled down and deconstructed when the materials used to build them would be useful to landowners for other building projects.

The legacy of these theatres remains, although it’s hard to see. Look closely though and you’ll see signs of them, such as in the name of the village of Playing Place, just a few miles from The Valley.

Now there’s a drive to make the theatres easier to spot and more attractive to visit.

A new Playing Places of Cornwall project has been kicked off by Golden Tree Productions, as part of an effort to revive some of the old theatres.

Today two ancient amphitheatres survive, at St Just in west Cornwall and Perranporth near Truro.

With funding from the Heritage Lottery Foundation the project aims to "thoroughly research and celebrate” the lost theatre sites.

That will involve performing plays at each of up to 200 locations, meaning anyone heading on holiday to Cornwall has a good chance of seeing a production.

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