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Criterion Theatre London

About the Criterion Theatre

The Criterion Theatre is situated in the heart of London’s busy Piccadilly Circus. Dating back to 1874 and designed by architect Thomas Verity (who also designed the Harold Pinter Theatre) the Grade II listed building was originally intended to be a multi-purpose concert hall complex, consisting of a restaurant, ballroom, private dining rooms and a galleried concert hall below ground level. However, as building work commenced it was decided that the concert hall was to be replaced by a theatre, with the restaurant and ballroom on the top levels of the building.

Renowned dramatist and librettist, W. S. Gilbert (one half of Gilbert & Sullivan) premiered several works in the early days of the Criterion Theatre, including the comic opera Haste to the Wedding and the farces On Bail and Foggerty's Fairy. During the Second World War, the BBC requisitioned the theatre due to its underground location, making it safe from bombing during the Blitz, and broadcast many comedies live to the nation.

The Criterion Theatre is one of a few West End venues not operated by Ambassador Theatre Group, LW Theatres, Nimax or Delfont Mackintosh; others include the Shaftesbury Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket. More recently, it has housed several successful productions including being the home of the Reduced Shakespeare Company from 1996-2005; The 39 Steps from 2006-2015, and Mischief Theatre's The Comedy About a Bank Robbery until 2020.

Plan your visit

The venue opens 45 minutes before the performance starts. The attractive, restored interior includes many ornate details to appreciate, so it is worth arriving early to ensure you can purchase your drinks, enjoy your surroundings and then get comfortable in the auditorium, ready for the show.
The cloakroom is currently closed for security and Covid reasons. Theatregoers should take minimal personal belongings with them and ensure that any bags or coats can be comfortably held on their laps or under their seats for the duration of the performance.
The theatre has two bars; the Greene Bar and the Lord Attenborough Bar, as well as a coffee stall in the Dress Circle. The bars serve wines, beers, spirits and soft drinks alongside confectionery, snacks and ice cream. A Click & Collect service is offered so you can pre-order your drinks for the start of the performance and the interval. You should receive a text message the day before your booking with instructions on how to use Click & Collect.
The theatre is located is in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, with a host of restaurants within a short walk. The Hard Rock Cafe is a popular choice as its just a couple of minutes walk from the theatre and serves a wide range of dishes in a fun, rock and pop themed environment. For an authentic taste of Italy, head to Cicchetti, which serves Venetian tapas and is just a five-minute walk away.
For a luxury stay in London, consider the Hotel Cafe Royal. This five-star hotel has a roof-garden with spectacular views of London and an indoor spa. If you're on a tighter budget, the Thistle Piccadilly has comfortable rooms and is just a few minutes walk from the theatre.

Help booking tickets

The box office opens from 10am on Tuesday-Sunday for in-person bookings and ticket collection.
The box office can be phoned directly at 033 33 202 895. You can find other contact details and more venue information at https://www.criterion-theatre.co.uk/.
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