Dartford residents will feel that Essex has moved just that bit closer this month when a recent West End hit show is brought to Dartford’s Orchard Theatre.

Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (DAODS) is revving up rehearsals for its upcoming production of the British musical Made in Dagenham, which was nominated for several Laurence Olivier Awards. The group is one of the first in the South East to secure the rights for the newly released show, and the cast of more than 50 local performers have been working hard since October.

Inspired by a true story and based on the 2010 hit movie, Made in Dagenham is an uplifting musical comedy about friendship, love and the importance of fighting for what's right.

Set in the 60s, it follows the main character of Rita O'Grady, who finds herself the spokesperson for a group of female machinists at Ford's car manufacturing plant in Dagenham. Eventually she leads them on strike when it becomes apparent they are being paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same work. In the West End, the part of Rita was played by Gemma Arterton, who was born in nearby Gravesend and attended the Miskin Theatre at North West Kent College in Dartford.

Although the show has many funny moments, it also touches on some important themes that are still relevant today. “Women’s rights and equal pay are still high on the public agenda,” says the show’s director Alex Campbell, “and this show highlights just how long these struggles have been going on for.”

Campbell has been a member of the society since she was nine years old, and Made in Dagenham will mark her debut as director at the Orchard Theatre. “DAODS is where my love for theatre began”, says Campbell, whose day job is in the Royal Shakespeare Company's casting department. “Not only have I been able to learn about how a show is put together, and to take part in dozens of shows over the years, but it has inspired me to pursue a career in the theatre. Last year I started work for the RSC, and the experience I have gained there has certainly been an asset during rehearsals for Made in Dagenham.”

The show comes hot on the heels of Annie Get Your Gun, which the group performed at the Orchard Theatre in October, and DAODS will return there in October 2017 with the well-loved classic Singin’ in the Rain. The society is always looking for new talent, both on and off-stage, and anyone who is interested in getting involved should email daodscom@gmail.com.

Made in Dagenham is being performed from 26th – 29th April at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. Tickets: 01322 220000 or www.orchardtheatre.co.uk

Submitted by Patrick Walsh