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.
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
Check out the Criterion Theatre Seating Plan here.
Now Playing at Criterion Theatre London
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
More West End Guides
For more West End information, here are some helpful quick links!
FAQs: Criterion Theatre London
Where is Criterion Theatre, London located?
218-223 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9HR, United Kingdom
What is the seating capacity of Criterion Theatre, London?
The Criterion Theatre has a capacity of 581 seats. Section capacities are 365 Stalls , 151 Dress Circle and 65 Upper Circle.
Does Criterion Theatre, London have accessible seating?
The Criterion Theatre is an underground theatre and the main access to all levels is via stairs. There is step-free access to the Upper Circle and less steps to access the dress circle and stalls via the Jermyn Street entrance.
What are the facilities available at Criterion Theatre, London?
There are two bars, the Stalls Bar and the Greene Bar (Dress Circle). These bars are only accessible via stairs but drinks can be taken into the auditorium.
Which is the nearest tube station to Criterion Theatre, London?
The Criterion is on Piccadilly Circus south-east side, by The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (Eros). The theatre entrance faces the statue. Piccadilly Circus tube station, exit 4, brings you to the front of the theatre.