Location: Piccadilly Circus
Currently Showing: The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Access: Piccadilly Circus, exit 4 marked Shaftesbury Avenue
Stage Door: Jermyn Street, right twice out of the main door
Ownership: Criterion Theatre Trust
The theatre opened in 1874 with a production called Topsydruvyism. Following a string of unpopular productions, the theatre was taken over in 1875 by Charles Wyndham who turned the venue into a popular comedy venue. Wyndham left in 1899 to open his own theatre but remained the lessee.
In 1883, the theatre was closed and refurbished due to new requirements from the Metropolitan Board of Works which deemed the pumping of air into the 30 feet below street level auditorium unsatisfactory. During World War II, the BBC used the theatre as a studio because its underground situation meant it was safe during the Blitz.
In the 1970s, the Criterion was proposed for redevelopment, causing protests for fear the theatre would be lost, and the Greater London Council approved it on the condition the theatre remaining in continuous use. Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s, Equity Save London Theatre Committee organised demonstrations. Robert Bourne and his wife Sally Greene purchased the theatre and founded the Criterion Theatre Trust, a charity to protect the theatre’s future.
The theatre sits on the tourist hotspot, Piccadilly Circus. There are many shops in the area, particularly on Regent Street (which goes off Piccadilly Circus), and Oxford Street is home to many department stores. The river is a short walk away and offers very nice views of the London skyline which is particularly pretty at night.
The theatre’s bar areas open around 40 minutes before the performance. The stalls bar is small and often gets very crowded before the doors to the auditorium open. The dress circle bar is much more spacious and less crowed. All levels are down from the box office at street level.
Our favourite restaurants nearby are:
- Getti – Jermyn Street, Italian, pizza, pasta, reasonable price
- The Terrace – Le Meridien Hotel, Piccadilly, British cuisine, expensive
- Planet Hollywood – Haymarket, wide ranging menu
The best seats are the central seats around Row C back to G. However, for those on a budget, the front row seats are cheaper than other stalls seats because of a high stage and it offers a personal experience being so close to the actors.
For Dress Circle seating, the front three rows offer very good views of the stage and are available cheaper than some stalls tickets. When booking Row D you have to be careful because there are pillars supporting the tier above and you could end up with a blocked view although the pillars are quite slim.
Where to buy tickets
The Criterion Theatre is an independently owned theatre. The best place to buy tickets is through the theatre’s website where you will pay face value.
Reviews from the Criterion
Close To You – ★★★★★ “…a feel-good show, with great music, amazingly talented singers and musicians just having so much fun.” Read more >>>
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – ★★★★★ “a hysterical farce revolving around several calamitous plots to steal the diamond.” Read more >>>