After a herculean effort, Dartford’s temporary theatre Orchard West opened its doors for the first public performances of the Christmas pantomime Beauty and the Beast on Saturday, December 9th.  

In the space of just five weeks, the former Co-Op site on Hythe Street has been transformed to host a 1000-seat venue, meaning the town centre won’t miss out on theatrical performances.

Crowds filled the temporary theatre on Friday for the opening night of panto, which will carry out its usual run over the festive season. Next year it will take on many of the performances that were scheduled for The Orchard, before its temporary closure began in September.

Leader of the Council Jeremy Kite said: “Losing the theatre, even temporarily, would have had a huge impact on our community and our local businesses, but we knew that the shows must go on.

“Not many councils would have acted as quickly as we did to find an alternative. Collaboration with our brilliant partners was at the heart of this success. Everyone who has been involved in the creation of Orchard West has been determined to see this through and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’m enormously grateful for the herculean effort everyone involved put in to make this possible.

“While we’re busy getting the permanent theatre back up and running, please do visit Orchard West over the coming months, there are some great shows on the way in a unique venue.”

Work to replace the auditorium roof at The Orchard is underway, with the theatre expected to reopen in late 2024.

Published: 11th December 2023