11 December 2023
On Saturday 9 December, Orchard West in Dartford opened its doors to the public for the very first time.
Dartford Borough Council (DBC) and Trafalgar Theatres constructed a state-of-the art temporary theatre venue in Dartford, following concerns over RAAC concrete in The Orchard Theatre’s roof which forced venue to close in September. Construction began on 30 October and took just 6 weeks to complete, saving pantomime for Dartford theatregoers.
Orchard West is a fully-functional, temporary, enclosed performance space with 1,000 seats – complete with comfortable seating, heating and cooling systems, access provision and full backstage and front-of-house facilities including indoor toilets and bars.
On the night, audience members were quoted saying:
“I can’t believe they built this is just six weeks, it’s stunning”
“The bathrooms are very nice, not what I expected”
“…you would never have known you were in a temporary structure once inside the main house”
“We were all a bit anxious about the venue but a pleasant surprise to find everything so lovely”
The first performance of pantomime Beauty and the Beast took place over the weekend. Shona McGarty leads the line-up of Dartford’s annual panto playing the title role of Belle. She is joined by Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist John Archer as Belle’s Father, fellow EastEnders actor Harry Reid as Silly Billy, and Musical Theatre performers Emma Jay Thomas as the Enchantress and Tom Senior as Flash Harry.