Dartford’s Orchard Theatre has unveiled plans to increase capacity and improve its accessibility and sustainability as part of a major redevelopment project.
The theatre will close for six weeks this summer in order to facilitate the £500,000 works, which will see its auditorium increase from a capacity of 956 to 1,025.
Money for the project is coming from the local council, which said it had an “unshakeable belief” in the arts.
Operator HQ Theatres said the works would enhance customer experience at the Kent venue and bring its technical equipment up to modern standards, including upgraded, more energy efficient, lighting and sound systems.
New auditorium seating will be installed, which will be motorised in the stalls, meaning the venue can transition between seated and flat-floor events more easily.
Elsewhere, access improvements will create new spaces for wheelchair users and audiences with other access requirements.
HQ will project manage the redevelopment. Funding has initially been provided by Dartford Borough Council and will be offset by future reductions to the annual management fees it pays HQ.
Julian Russell, chief executive of HQ, 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. Improving facilities and visiting companies, and protecting the council’s cultural asset for many years to come.”
He also praised the council’s “vision, foresight and flexibility” in rethinking existing funding models to enable the redevelopment financially.
Council leader 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.”