A popular theatre in Dartford has suspended all performances until the end of September due to concrete issues.

Dartford Council has confirmed today (September 5) that all performances at The Orchard Theatre have been cancelled “with immediate effect”, after concerns with the RAAC panels.

Dartford Borough Council has been commissioning regular surveys on The Orchard Theatre and the last report from specialist consultants in April this year continued to report that defects in the panels in the theatre’s roof were “not significant”.

The Council said they “nevertheless began planning” to replace panels in the “medium to long term”, in line with the consultant’s advice.

However, a routine inspection yesterday (September 4), carried out in line with the most recent industry guidance resulted in the consultant making a recommendation to close until such time as further surveys could be carried out and a solution identified.

Due to this all performances have been suspended at The Orchard Theatre with immediate effect.

This includes tomorrow’s showing of Country Superstars, Thursday’s showing of Whitney – Queen of the Night, and Friday's showing of Jimmy Carr: Terribly funny 2.0.

A spokesperson at the Orchard Theatre said: “The theatre was built in the early 1980s with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

“At the time, this was considered a cheap and lightweight alternative to traditional concrete and the theatre was one of thousands of public buildings to use during construction”.

Helen Enright, COO of Trafalgar Entertainment & CEO Trafalgar Theatres confirmed that performances are “initially suspended” until the end of September to allow further investigations to take place.

Leader of the Council, Jeremy Kite, said: “It’s not the news that anyone wants to hear but there is nothing more important than the safety of the audiences, staff, artists, volunteers, and everyone at the venue.

“This problem was embedded in the building at the time of its construction in 1983 and it is one of thousands of buildings built using this construction method.

“Although any closure is a blow, we are in the fortunate position to have the resources and determination to put the building right and reopen it for the benefit of residents.

“Both Dartford Borough Council and Trafalgar Theatres are committed to making the necessary adaptations required as soon as possible to allow performances to recommence.

“We, and our partners at Trafalgar Theatres, know this will cause inconvenience and disappointment, but the safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority.”

Helen Enright, COO of Trafalgar Entertainment & CEO Trafalgar Theatres, said: “Performances are initially suspended until the end of September to allow further investigations to take place.

“Once the time frames become clearer, we will update customers as to the status of the future programme and would like to reassure customers that their money is safe.

“We will be contacting existing ticket holders to reschedule performances or to reimburse them.

“There is no need for customers to contact the theatre and rest assured that we will be in touch.

“Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we work through the different considerations.”