Interview: Alex Campbell, DAODS Made in Dagenham

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!”

Don’t miss DAODS’ Made in Dagenham at the Orchard Theatre from 26th-29th April. And to find out more about DAODS, visit the website.

Preview: DAODS’ Annie Get Your Gun at the Orchard Theatre

This week, the Orchard Theatre plays host to the Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (DAODS) and their production of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. Established in 1906, DAODS have over 200 musicals, plays and revues to their name – not to mention some pretty high profile former members, among them West End stars Lara Pulver and Rebecca Thornhill – and they’re showing no sign of slowing down any time soon.


Annie Get Your Gun, which first opened on Broadway in 1946, tells the story of Annie Oakley, the best shot around, who’s discovered by Colonel Buffalo Bill and persuaded to join his Wild West Show. She soon falls for the dashing Frank Butler, but can their romance survive when she outshines him professionally, or will his bruised ego prove too much of an obstacle?

“The show is a classic, with some of the best known numbers in the musical theatre canon, including Anything You Can Do and There’s No Business Like Show Business,” explains DAODS’ Pat Walsh. “Those who have seen our shows at the Orchard Theatre before will know to expect the highest level of production values, with a full orchestra and professional lighting and sound, as well as a cast of over 50 adults and children, who will be on stage giving it their all.”

DAODS have been performing at the Orchard Theatre since it opened in 1982. “We typically perform two shows a year: one in the spring and one in the autumn. This production of Annie Get Your Gun will be the third time we’ve staged this show, the second time we’ve performed it at the Orchard Theatre, and our 66th show at the theatre in all.

“In many ways the Orchard’s become our second home, and it gives us the opportunity to put on shows to professional standards, where we can hire professional sets and orchestra as well as lighting and sound. In the last few years we had to cut down to just one show a year at the theatre, with the others being at our own venue of Heathfields Hall. However, we’re glad to say that we’re back to our normal six-monthly cycle, with Made in Dagenham coming up in the spring and Singing in the Rain in October 2017.”

Photo credit: Amy Farlie
Photo credit: Amy Farlie

Made in Dagenham marks a particularly exciting time for the Society: “We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be one of the first groups in the South-East to be given the rights to perform this recent West End smash hit show,” says Pat. “It’s a really feel good show, telling the real life story of the Ford workers’ strike in 1968, and is a testament to the power of ordinary people standing up for what’s right.”

Made in Dagenham is a show that requires a large cast of all ages, and auditions to join the Society will be taking place after their current show. To find out about auditions, email – DAODS are always looking for new members of all levels of experience.

Book now to catch DAODS’ Annie Get Your Gun at the Orchard Theatre from 5th-8th October.