A state-of-the-art temporary theatre, built at a cost of £1.5 million, has officially opened its doors to the public.

The News Shopper was among the first to be granted an exclusive preview inside Orchard West, situated on Hythe Street in Dartford.

The all-new theatre is just a two minute walk from The Orchard theatre, and has amenities such as a bar, toilets and a huge auditorium which holds 1,091 people.

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Tal Rosen, Theatre Director at Orchard, and Orchard West Theatre, has worked with the company for four and a half years, and says it is “a Christmas miracle” to be opening in time for the pantomime.

He told the News Shopper: “It's incredible to know that we've managed to retain the workforce and retain the structure of the theatre for a community that needs it.

“One thing that we've always done is understand the importance of what the Orchard Theatre provides for the community of Dartford.

“We work incredibly closely with the local authority, and we understand the importance of our local customer clientele base for the arts engagement.”

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The venue will also support the continuing employment of the theatre team, visiting artists and backstage crew - plus many local businesses in the surrounding area who rely on footfall from theatregoers.

The Orchard Theatre in Dartford was forced to close after a survey found concerns with the theatre’s RAAC panels.

Since then, the council has “gone into overdrive” to find a “creative way of keeping the show going here in Dartford”.

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Tal added: “It’s been mesmerising seeing everything come together.

“We started building around six weeks ago and everything has happened really quickly.

“I have watched it every single day become an incredible, warm, vibrant structure.”

News Shopper: Women's toilets Women's toilets (Image: Poppy Huggett)

Beauty and the Beast will be onstage at the brand new, Orchard West Theatre until December 31.

Other upcoming shows in the new year include Swan Lake, Cirque, and the Serial Killer Next Door.

Jeremy Kite, leader of Dartford Borough Council said: “Our theatre is such an important part of life for so many Dartford residents that when we were forced to close the venue, we were determined to find a way for the show to go on.

“The provision of Orchard West until we can re-open our much-loved venue means that not just our amazing pantomime, but a whole range of productions from local groups right through to the big names and West End performances can continue to light up the cultural life of our town.