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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, 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 placed above the theatre on the top levels of the building.

Renowned dramatist and librettist, W. S. Gilbert (best known for his collaboration with Arthur 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.

More recently, the theatre has housed several successful productions including being the home of the Reduced Shakespeare Company from 1996-2005; the long-running play The 39 Steps from 2006-2015, and Mischief Theatre's The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, which closed in 2020.

Plan your visit

The Criterion Theatre auditorium opens around 45 minutes before the show starts. The Box Office is open from 10am on Tuesday-Sunday.
There is no specific dress code for the theatre. Patrons should wear attire that is comfortable and appropriate for the occasion.
The Criterion Theatre does have air conditioning.
There is a cloakroom at the Criterion Theatre for ticket holders to store large bags and pushchairs. If you'd like to use the cloakroom, speak to a member of the Front of House team.
Security staff will be completing bag and ticket checks upon entry to the theatre, so patrons are encouraged to arrive early to allow plenty of time.
The Criterion 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 a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, alongside confectionery, snacks and ice cream.
The Criterion Theatre 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. 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 near the Criterion Theatre, 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.
The Criterion Theatre opened in 1874 and was designed by the architect Thomas Verity. The theatre formed part of an expansive complex in Piccadilly Circus that included a restaurant, dining rooms and a ballroom. The Criterion Theatre is one of the best remaining examples of a preserved Victorian auditorium.

Help booking tickets

Tickets are held at the box office for collection on the day of your performance. Please ensure you bring your confirmation email and a form of ID.
The Criterion Theatre box office opens from 10am on Tuesday-Sunday for in-person bookings and collection.
The Criterion Theatre box office can be contacted directly on 033 33 202 895.
STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) are the industry body that regulates the sale of London theatre tickets. When booking from a company you can check their ticket seller database to see if they are registered and conforming to STAR practices. When buying online, you should also check for the padlock in your browser URL bar to ensure the connection is secure.
The Criterion Theatre's 590-seat auditorium is available for private hire and corporate events. For full details of pricing and what the theatre can offer, please email
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