In Cornwall we’re blessed with what is, in all likelihood, the most beautiful theatre in the world. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s a simple truth, The Minack is unrivalled. It is easy to get lost in the sea view, but Trebiggan’s Cider With Rosie is the first show I have seen at the venue for many years where the bay was an afterthought: the beauty on stage matched the vista at every moment.
Flowers are delicately arranged across the stage, and we begin with Laurie Lee staring out to sea, a performance perfectly pitched throughout by Lewis Howard, who deftly switches from naive, excitable boy to erudite man across the piece. From here, we’re transported through his younger years by a sublime six-strong ensemble. It’s wonderful storytelling, with pure invention at every turn, and joyous characterisation, as cast members repeatedly double up, bringing Lee and Darke’s words to life.
Director Rosanna Elliott draws us into Lee’s world, painting pictures with people and perennials, and we don’t want to leave. The Minack stage becomes a space illustrated from memories, framed with flowers, washing lines and bedsheets, and while every moment is totally new, there’s a strange familiarity. It’s compelling, beautifully staged and sharply directed: each moment is measured, finessed and given space to breathe. We can only have the sparse once we’ve been treated to a relentless pace, brimming with creativity. In this sparseness, Jenny Beare’s final scenes as the Mother are particularly poignant.
The play is perfectly underscored live by Ben Sutcliffe and Zaid Al-Rikabi, of The People’s String Foundation, whose music sits wonderfully with the onstage action. A blend of violin, guitar and piano serenades us through Laurie Lee’s life, and it is testament to the soundtrack that at times you are no longer conscious of it: it is immaculate, and simply impossible to imagine these scenes without it.
What Elliott and Trebiggan have created is a great story, beautifully told. The performances are excellent, the staging is utterly inventive, with surprises at every turn, and the music is a joy. The whole show sparkles, even more than Porthcurno Bay, and it demands to be seen.
Cider With Rosie is on for the last time tomorrow (Friday 22nd May). I’ve checked the weather, you have no excuses. Go, it’s terrific.