Criterion Theatre

Theatre , West End Piccadilly Circus
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(5 user reviews)
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Redeveloped in the nineteenth century as a restaurant, tavern and basement theatre on the site of a former coaching inn, the Criterion opened for dinner in 1873 and for drama the following year. A WS Gilbert offering entitled ‘Topsyturveydom’ was among the early offerings, followed by a period under Charles Wyndham during which the theatre acquired a reputation for light comedies. Wyndham left in 1899 to open his own theatre and soon afterwards the Metrpolitan Board of Works condemned the theatre on safety grounds. Extensive refurbishment followed, including the installation of electric lights, and by the 1920s and 1930s the venue was playing host to the likes of John Gielgud and Sybil Thorndike in work by Novello and Rattigan.

During the war the theatre was requisitioned by the BBC and afterwards its repertoire became more adventurous, with Beckett, Fo and Pinter performed there. But the 1970s saw the Criterion in jeopardy when the entire site was proposed for redevelopment. A high-profile campaign was launched to save the theatre and its future was eventually secured. It closed its doors from 1989 to 1992 and – after remodelling which saw part of the building converted into what is now Lillywhite’s sports store – it reopened with a performance by Ennio Marchetto. The Reduced Shakespeare Company were residents for a further nine years and since 2006 the theatre has housed the successful Hitchcock spoof 'The 39 Steps’.

Venue name: Criterion Theatre
Contact:
Address: 218-223 Piccadilly
London
SW1Y 4XA
Transport: Piccadilly Circus tube
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Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|5
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Tara P
Tastemaker

The Criterion Theatre is conveniently located smack bang on Piccadilly Circus - useful for the journey home. Long the residence of brilliant farce The 39 Steps, it now houses A Comedy About A Bank Robbery (there's definitely a theme running through its theatrical inhabitants...) An opulent yet small entrance awaits, with routes to the main seating areas. The theatre is predominantly below ground, with long staircases down to the stalls. It's here that I've experienced several different views, and not all of them brilliant. The centre of the stalls obviously offers the clearest view, but you can still be caught out by the shallow rake. The far edges of the stalls can be very obstructed, particularly for any action that is far back on the stage. These seats do not always offer value for money, even discounted, so I'd recommend checking a review site such as TheatreMonkey before booking. In all though, it's an opulent little space and a slice of history in the heart of modern London.

JamesBarker82
tastemaker

Slap back in the centre of tourist London - to be honest  I have always avoided this space. But I was so wrong! It has become one of my favourite theatrical spaces in London. One of the most intermit spaces in the west end. Its right in the underground of Piccadily Circus but steeped in history.  There is a beautiful plague from the Lord Attenbourough which completely sums up my opinion on British Theatre. 


"The arts are not a luxury. They are as crucial to our well being, to our very existence, as eating and breathing. Access to them should not be restricted to a privileged few. Nor are they playgrounds of the intellenista The arts are for everyone and failure to include everyone diminishes us all."


Go Richard!!! 

Kevin W
tastemaker

Lovely gem hidden in the undergrounds of London. An intimate space to appreciate the minor details in the actor's expressions. Look out for back row seats where you might get partially obscured views.

William w
tastemaker

A great play full of comedy that will make you laugh. Excellent acting and great use of props. A very clever and witty production. Go and see it.