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West End Guide: Criterion Theatre London

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Criterion Theatre, located in proximity to Piccadilly Circus, is a West End theatre that is officially a Grade II Listed building. The theatre is one of the oldest, still functioning theatres in London, having opened on 21st March, 1874. In its 145 years of existence, the theatre has undergone a lot of changes, both structurally and in terms of the genres of theatre it played host to. Initially, the theatre was conceived to function as a concert hall but after a subdued level of success, changed gears and began hosting Edwardian musical comedies. During World War II, the theatre was converted to a safe studio for the BBC.

In 1980, almost a century after the theatre's opening, it was purchased by property tycoon, Robert Bourne. The theatre continues to be owned by Bourne, under a trust he set up with his wife, called the Criterion Theatre Trust. The original design of the theatre was created by architect Thomas Verity and featured a unique underground design, where even the upper circle seats could only be accessed by going down stairs. In 1989, the theatre underwent major renovation on both the front and back of the house.

With a history that dates back almost 145 years, you can bet that the Criterion Theatre has been home of some iconic productions. These include The Great Divorce Case, Haste to the Wedding, Musical Chairs, French Without Tears, Waiting for Godot, Tom Foolery, Run for Your Wife, Fresh Fields, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, The Waltz of Toreadors, The 39 Steps, Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and many others. Since 2016, the theatre has been playing host to The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and the show resumes its successful run till date. If you're keen on watching the comedy play but unsure of which seat(s) to opt for, fret not. Our Criterion Theatre seating plan has all the information you need to make your visit special.

Venue Details

Address: 218-223 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1V 9LB, UK

Opened: 21 March 1874

Seating Capacity: 588
Stalls : 365
Dress Circle: 151
Upper Circle: 65

Seating Chart
Check out the Criterion Theatre Seating Plan here.

Now Playing at Criterion Theatre London

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Criterion theatre - The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery has been entertaining audiences since its premiere on 21st April, 2016. The trio of writers, under the production name Mischief Theatre, have previously played on West End with two other comedies, The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. The Comedy About a Bank Robbery was nominated for the Best New Comedy at the Olivier Awards of 2017. Mark Bell has directed the play and David Farley has handled set design. Costumes for the show have been designed by Roberto Surace and the show premiered at the Criterion Theatre back in 2016. Upon premiering, the play received rave reviews from prestigious critics including The Telegraph, Radio Times, Sunday Telegraph, WhatsOnStages and The Times. The Telegraph labeled the show “the funniest in the West End!”.

The West End cast is led by the three writers Henry Shields, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Lewis. They are joined on stage by Nancy Zamit, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell, Greg Tannahill, Jeremy Lloyd, Chris Leask and others!

The Story

Set in 1958, Minneapolis, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is best described as a screwball comedy that doubles as a classic farce with brassy branding and a maniacal energy that transcends the stage, making it Mischief Theatre's best work to date. The story follows Minneapolis City Bank, who has been given the task of protecting a precious diamond. Little do the bank staff know that an escaped convict has set his eyes on the diamond and will do anything to get his hands on it. Assisting him in the highly improbable quest are his screwball sidekick, conniving girlfriend and the star of the team, the maintenance man. In a town full of crooks and mistaken identities and hidden agendas running rampant, the diamond is anyone's to take. But who will acquire it in the end? Watch the show to find out!


Mark Bell

Leading Roles

Leonard Cook as Robin Freeboys
Jean-Luke Worrell as Warren Slax
Jack Whittle as Sam Monaghan

Show Timings

Tue - Fri - 7:30 PM
Sat - 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM
Sun - 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM

Running Time

2 hours and 20 minutes, including 1 interval.

Practical Information

Section Accessibility

Stalls: You can reach the stalls by climbing down 54 steps from the main foyer. There are no lifts in the theatre, so this section should be avoided by patrons with limited mobility.

Dress Circle: The dress circle can be reached by climbing down 32 steps from the main foyer. Again, since there is no lift, this section should be avoided by wheelchair users and others with limited mobility.

Upper Circle: The upper circle is the only section in the theatre to feature step-free access. This step-free access is courtesy a special entrance located on Jermyn Street. Given that there is a way to access this section without climbing down steps, the upper circle is the most suitable for wheelchair users, transfer seat folks and guests with limited mobility. Row C of the upper circle has two wheelchair accessible spaces.

Available Facilities

Wheelchair Accessible: Wheelchair accessible spaces are available only in the upper circle section. These spaces are located to the left of seat C20 and can be accessed via a negligible slope. There are transfer seats available in each row of this section as well, but there are steps leading to these rows.

Restroom: The theatre is equipped with one access adapted toilet in the upper circle. Regular toilets for males and females are located between the stalls and dress circle section and require steps to be climbed up/down.

Bar: The Criterion Theatre has two bars. The first one, Stalls Bar, is located in the stalls and the second, Greene Bar, is located in the dress circle. Please note that both these bars require steps to be used. For wheelchair users, drinks can be brought to their seats by the staff.

Assistive Listening System: The theatre has an induction loop system in the foyer and a infrared hearing system installed in all parts of the theatre. Headsets are also available for guests and can be collected from the cloakroom.

Cloakroom: If you're carrying large bags or pushchairs, the theatre houses a cloakroom where you can deposit your bags. Please reach out to the theatre staff for cloakroom facility.

Handy Tips

  • Guide dogs are not allowed inside the auditorium but patrons who are using a guide dog can keep the dog with the theatre staff for safekeeping. Do note that the staff can only care for two dogs per performance, so contact the theatre management beforehand if you're planning on bringing a guide dog along.
  • Hot food is not allowed inside the auditorium. But guests are free to bring in snacks and drinks, as long as they are in plastic containers. Drinks purchased from the theatre bar must also be transferred to plastic cups if they're being taken inside the auditorium.
  • Since the theatre is quite small already, guests won't need binoculars to view the performances. Still, if you feel like bringing binoculars to the performance, you're free to do so.
  • Some seats in all three sections are pretty cramped and offer very limited legroom. Check with the theatre management before booking your tickets to ensure you don't end up in a cramped seat. As a rule of thumb, seats next to the aisles offer decent legroom.
  • Q-Park offers West End fans up to 50% off on the parking charges. Just present your Q-Park ticket at the theatre and the car park machine with automatically charge you only half of the total cost.
  • The Criterion Theatre is fully air-conditioned. Please dress accordingly to avoid catching a cold.

Getting There

The Criterion Theatre is located in Piccadilly Circle, one of the most popular and visited places in London. Given the prime location, you can easily access the Criterion Theatre using a number of public transport modes. Here are some of the more popular ones:

Tube: Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are the two closest tube stations from the theatre. Both stations are at a walkable distance of 2-3 minutes from the theatre.

By Rail : The nearest train station from the Criterion Theatre is the Charing Cross Station, at around a walk of 5 minutes.

Bus: There are a lot of buses plying to the Piccadilly Circus which you can hop on to reach the theatre, including 3, 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 159, and 453.

Vehicle: If you're bringing your own car, the nearest car parking is the Q-Park in Chinatown.

Restaurants near Criterion Theatre London

1. Ikoyi: Experience a modern twist on traditional West African flavours with this chic space with a decor that goes with the cuisine.

2. Cichetti: Sample the seasonal menu of Italian small plates at this modern and sleek dining room with marble tables.

3. Kricket Soho: Try a decadent blend of British ingredients and Mumbai flavours at this funky joint for small plates and cocktails.

4. Bocca di Lupo: This authentic and compact Italian restaurant with neighbouring gelateria serves both small and large plates with equal aplomb.

5. Brasserie Zedel: Grand French deco eatery with traditional brasserie dishes and choucroutes in a 1930s building.

6. Kiln: This casual, open kitchen serves noodles and Thai-inspired dishes using wood-burning ovens and grills.

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