SOMETHING very special is happening at The Minnack Theatre next month.

Founder of Kneehigh, Mike Shepherd, will open his first major production at the theatre since he stepped down as artistic director of the award-winning company in 2021.

Kneehigh may have closed its doors, but the inspiration of the people who created its unique style is as alive as ever and Mike and his collaborators, old and new, are full of excitement about this new venture.

Mike explains how their new piece, Calvino Nights, co-directed by Elayce Ismail with poetry and lyrics by Anna Maria Murphy and Carl Grose, has grown out of the legacy of Kneehigh.

He said: “Zoë Curnow asked me if I could make a show that was like the Kneehigh shows she remembered as a kid. I certainly wouldn’t want to recreate shows from a distant past, but it got me thinking about what Zoe might mean!

“Kneehigh started out creating and performing shows for children and their families but I never categorised them as children’s shows. I wanted them to engage in different ways for different generations and to be a good night out for all.

“As a child myself, I must admit, I found theatre too long and a bit boring. So, when I came to make theatre myself I needed it to be exciting and not too long! This obviously is a bit simplistic but, thinking about the shows which Zoe remembered…they were full of energy, bold, funny, loud, a bit naughty, physical, visual, poetic and surprising. Calvino Nights is all of these things!

“Italo Calvino was an Italian writer who collected aural telling's of folk tales and rewrote them with a lavish sprinkling of exaggeration. Our show, Calvino Nights, is inspired by a mix of several of these folk tales including the adventures of a boy the size of a pea, a skinflint miser, a woman who lives on nothing more than wind, there are hapless robbers, fallen angels, circus tricks , the cosmos and lots of fire!

Calvino Nights will be at The Minack Theatre through May Picture: Steve Tanner

Calvino Nights will be at The Minack Theatre through May Picture: Steve Tanner

“Calvino has inspired us for many years. Kneehigh shows The Wild Bride and The Wooden Frock were based on his folk tales. Last April we made a short film at Restormel Castle with director Joe Wright inspired by the Calvino story Princess and Peppernose -you can see it on YouTube. Now is the time though to leave those screens behind. Stories need to be experienced live, we all need live events.”

Executive director of the Minack Zoë said: “We are delighted to be working in cahoots with Mike and imPossible Producing to bring this new piece of theatre to our stage. Many generations of Cornish school children (myself included) were inspired by Mike's work at the Minack in the early days of Kneehigh and we are really excited to reintroduce his style of performance to a new generation of young people, the Cornish community and our visitors.”

Co-producing Calvino Nights is Cornish production company, imPOSSIBLE Producing.

Calvino Nights will contain elements that will be familiar to Kneehigh’s many admirers. An ensemble company, an original score of songs and music, wild, wonderful storytelling full of theatrical magic, laughter and spectacle, and a message that is both challenging and uplifting.

It opens at the Minack Theatre on May 1 and runs until May 19. It then transfers to The Lost Gardens of Heligan from May 27 to 29.

For tickets and information on all performances at the Minack visit and for tickets and information about performances at Heligan visit