How to survive watching Shakespeare in an open-air Theatre with a Three-Year-Old

I’ve always wanted to watch Shakespeare at an open-air theatre, but only got the chance when we had family visiting from my country early this month.  Since they’ve already watched “The Crucible” at the Old Vic in London, we wanted to offer them something different.  That’s when we thought of the Minack open-air theatre down in Porthcurno in West Cornwall, luckily for us, “The Tempest” was on early this month.  This theatre by the sea is probably the best place to stage and watch the play which many believe to be the last play that he wrote alone.  Incidentally, this was also the first play to be ever staged at Minack in 1932.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep – The Tempest

Waiting for The Tempest to start.

When I saw that it was showing, I quickly booked our tickets online, hushing that nagging voice in my head that said “Are you seriously thinking of taking your 3-year-old daughter to watch Shakespeare at 8pm?!”   But my husband and I decided that yes, we were going, but not before discussing a plan.

We survived the first half-of the play! Yay.

In case you’re wondering how we did it, here are a few tips:

1.  Explain to your little one what’s about to happen.  That you are about to watch a play (it also helps to just give them an idea what it’s also about) and should try to be in their best behavior.

2.  Don’t arrive late.  Choose your seats near the exit in case you need to do an emergency dash once your little one starts making whinging noises.  Expect that either one of you, might just not be able to watch the play in whole.

By the time I booked our tickets, only the upper seats were left, but that was fine with us, especially since we preferred to sit at the very back which worked really well for us.  This was early July folks, the heat wasn’t on yet, in fact it was scheduled to rain and the wind from the ocean was still a bit chilly. Since we sat up in the bleachers, a huge rock  shielded us from the rain and cold.  But not to worry, the theatre had surround-sound speakers so you could hear the dialogue really well.

3.  Expect to get the “Oh no” looks from people as they find themselves seated next beside you.  Yes, those horrified looks that sometimes makes me want to say “Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite.  She’s not a rabid dog“.   The woman seated beside me asked “How old is she?”  To be fair with her, she seemed really friendly, but I noticed her smile turned a bit fake when I told her little T was only three.  The couple seated next to my husband though had stony expressions on their faces, I noticed they sat with their back straight-really tense looking, I half expected them to jump at the slightest noise my daughter might make while the play was going on.

During the break though, the same woman who asked how old little T complimented her and said “She’s really good!”  My husband and I laughed nervously and said “So far so good” and crossed our fingers.

Little T making funny faces during the break.

“I’m a good girl!”

4.  And lastly (this is a bit of bad-parenting folks), but bring loads of sweets and treats.  The good thing about the Minack is that, since it is an open-theatre, you are allowed to bring a little picnic with you.  In fact, the couple seated next to my husband brought a hamper with them and it wasn’t a small one (as advised on their website), it was a biggish hamper.  They sat with their straight backs while sipping wine and eating strawberries, as if ready to pack-up and once little T showed signs of the beginning of a tantrum.  Luckily for everyone, she didn’t.

She was a very good girl indeed.  And remained quiet and sat on mummy’s lap and sometimes daddy’s lap wrapped up in a blanket all through out the play.  Perhaps what did the trick was that she was eating loads of Lola biscuits (party rings) and little cakes.  No she wasn’t eating the whole duration of the play which was probably a couple of hours long, probably just the first half.

The very talented-cast of the Tempest.

Final encore.

At the end of the day though, you of all people, know your child.  If you think your little one wouldn’t last this long and won’t probably behave watching a play, don’t take them.  It’s not fair on your child, the people around you and mostly it’s not worth the stress.  Hire a babysitter or leave your little one with a trusted friend or loved one, then go to the theatre.

As for us, we like to include little T in everything we do or it could also be, we’re just a little bit bonkers.

This post is linked-up with #countrykids.

What about you?

Have you taken your little one to see a play?


  1. cariemay

    I think it’s great that you took her and boo to the people with poker backs! As you say it’s all about knowing your child and what they’re capable of – and in an open air theatre it’s not like you don’t get ‘noises off’ from other sources either!

    • So true! I think they were all surprised that little T didn’t have a tantrum at all 😉

  2. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?

    I fully believe in taking the little ones and letting them experience and learn that sometimes you do have to sit still. I’m also a big believer in a big bag of snacks to help accomplish – well pretty much anything! 🙂

    • Same here. We take little T everywhere with us 🙂 If we can’t take her, then we don’t go, or find something else to do instead 🙂

  3. lexiesnana

    I love it when the little ones have a wonderful night like that. We try to take the grandkids everywhere with us too because life gets so busy you want to spend as much time with them as you can. Our kids are good examples to people that they are little people too. They have their moments but their parents have taught them manners. I was so happy reading this!

    • You’re definitely right! Experiences like this helps teach little T how to behave and also get used to “grown-up” activities. Like you, we take our little T everywhere with us!


    Our friends took their kids to the Minack last year (I think) and loved it – your photo’s reminded me that they had been. Its somewhere I’d like to take our boys if we ever make it down to that neck of the woods. #countrykids

  5. livinginthelanghe

    What a cool place to see a play, and well done Little T for behaving so well. So, is she a big fan of Shakespeare now?

  6. Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)

    What a feat! Amazing. I cant even make my son sit inside a theater yet. So this is not going to happen anytime soon! Go you! #countrykids

    • Thanks! She’s really good… though of course like all kids, she also has her moments 😉

  7. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    That’s really great Dean, I think it’s brilliant to take kids to things like this, wonderful experience. It looks fabulous too, what a stunning setting.

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