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Orchard Theatre in Dartford to close this summer for £500,000 refurbishment

By Angela Cole

Dartford's Orchard Theatre is set to undergo a major redevelopment this summer costing £500,000.

The theatre in Home Gardens will close for six weeks to allow for the work, which is initially being funded by Dartford Borough Council, to be carried out.

Under the plans, the auditorium will be stripped back, with new seating installed on all levels, and a new layout will mean the amount of seats will increase by 69 to 1,025.

The Orchard Theatre is being redeveloped
The Orchard Theatre is being redeveloped

Lighting and sound systems will be replaced with more energy-efficient equipment and access will be improved for wheelchair users.

The work is being led by venue operator HQ Theatres, in conjunction with the council.

The project – initially funded by Dartford council and off-set by future reductions in the annual management fee paid to HQ – will mean the theatre can put on a wider range of shows and events.

New motorized seating will be installed in the flat-floor area so it can be transformed easily between seated and flat-floor events, which gives show producers more flexibility.

An artist's impression of the Orchard Theatre refurbishment
An artist's impression of the Orchard Theatre refurbishment

Dartford Borough Council leader, Cllr Jeremy Kite, said: "With so many councils cutting support for theatres it would have been easy for us to do the same, but it would not have been right. We have an unshakeable belief in the value of the arts as part of a strong society. The fact that the theatre is going from strength to strength is testament to the fact that the council has made the right spending decisions in tandem with HQ Theatre’s excellent stewardship."

Julian Russell, HQ Theatres & Hospitality chief executive, said: "The theatre is already a powerhouse venue in the HQ portfolio - punching above its weight in terms of the shows on offer, the audiences served and the range of community events programmed.

"This major redevelopment will position the Orchard brilliantly for future success."

Theatre director Lorna Strawson added: “We can’t wait to see the finished results and to unveil the wide-ranging improvements to our customers and to visiting producers. We know how much our audiences value the theatre."

Other improvements include installing Robo-Spot follow-spot equipment, new carpets and redecoration of the auditorium and foyer.

The theatre currently has Annie the Musical, starring Craig Revel Horwood, playing. Click here to read our review.

Read more: All the latest stage news across Kent

For all the news from Dartford click here

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