The Dartford Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society was founded in 1906, when three residents decided to form a local operatic society to offset “the perceived lack of facilities for entertainment” in Dartford. Though we no longer have that problem, with a thriving local theatre that attracts some of the UK’s top touring shows, DAODS are still going strong – and proving with each production that they’re more than capable of holding their own alongside the visiting talent.
And later this month DAODS will be back at the Orchard Theatre with their production of Made in Dagenham. They’re one of the first amateur groups in the South East to perform the show, and director Alex Campbell is looking forward to bringing a little bit of Essex to our Dartford shores.
“It’s very exciting to be one of the first groups to do the show in this area,” she says. “It feels so close to home – just across the bridge! – so we know that the people of Dartford will really enjoy it. Within our company, there are many who remember and were directly affected by the events that inspired Made in Dagenham, and we hope it will bring back memories for lots of people.”
The show’s based on the true story of the women who worked in the Ford factory at Dagenham during the late 60s. “After their jobs as machinists were deemed ‘unskilled’ and upon the realisation that they were paid 87% of the wage of their male counterparts, the women went on strike,” explains Alex. “They gained the backing of the Trade Unions, which forced Ford to adopt an equal pay policy. As a direct result, the Equal Pay Act was signed into legislation in 1970 and formed the basis of much of our equal rights policy in this country.”
This particular strike may have ended in victory, but Alex believes women’s rights still have a long way to go: “Although we have come very far, gender inequality is still not resolved in this country and the show really highlights all the work we have left to do. Feminism is certainly having a resurgence at the moment and I think Made in Dagenham is an excellent reminder of how recently things have actually begun to change for women, and in some ways, how much they have yet to change at all.”
The show brings together a cast of over 40 talented local performers. “I am so thrilled by our fantastic cast,” says Alex. “Our leading lady Rita O’Grady is played by Stephanie Trott, who’s previously worked professionally in the West End, and she’s joined by Alex Freeman, who’s played many fantastic roles for DAODS, as her husband Eddie. The two were last seen as Sweeney and Mrs Lovett in our production of Sweeney Todd last year. We also have two brilliant local young people, Joseph and Elouise, who join us to play their children. There is a fantastic mixture of old and new members in the show, with many DAODS leading actors returning to take up principal roles.”
Alex has been a member of DAODS for over 15 years, having joined the society as a member of the youth group at age 9. “Since then it’s been a huge part of my life and has helped me gain skills and experience that have allowed me to pursue a professional career in the theatre world,” she says. “It may sound cliché, but DAODS is really like a huge family and I am so grateful for their encouragement and support over the past few months.
“I’m thrilled to be directing my first Orchard production, having previously directed Hair for the society which was performed at our hall. I’ve always wanted to direct an Orchard show and one of the most exciting things is the huge scale of the production and the potential to create amazing things with a large cast. We are so lucky to have the support of the Orchard staff, who are so incredible at their jobs and have been a great support to the process.”
For anyone inspired to join DAODS, there are some great opportunities ahead over the coming months. “We have many exciting things coming up next, including our Disney revue Dream which will be at Heathfields Hall in July, and then our next Orchard production will be the iconic Singin’ In The Rain in October. As always, we are looking for new members for our group and our next society auditions will be after Dagenham – so do get in touch and join us. You will not regret it!”