LocationThe Criterion Theatre is situated in the centre of London’s theatrical district, right next to Piccadilly Circus. The bright lights and packed streets of Piccadilly are synonymous with London theatre and consequently it is a lively and diverse part of the capital, with a great selection of bars, restaurants and cafés within walking distance of the theatre. Leicester Square and Covent Garden are both within a short walk if you fancy doing a spot of shopping, and the West End streets of Oxford Street and Regent Street are not much further afield.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest station to the Criterion Theatre is Piccadilly Circus on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines.By bus: Numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 159 and 453 all stop close to the theatre.By taxi or car: Piccadilly Circus is a busy tourist location, and as such hailing a taxi should not prove difficult. The nearest car park is the MasterPark at Whitcomb Street or Trafalgar Square, with a further NCP on Denman Street.
SeatingThe Criterion Theatre is based in Piccadilly Circus and holds just shy of 600 audience members across three levels. The theatre seems intimate and suits the smaller scale plays that tend to play there. The Stalls section is square in shape with no central aisle. There are a number of pillars in this section that can cause obstructions, in rows J, N, P and R. Try to avoid sitting behind or within these are the action will be restricted. Best seats are in the front centre of the auditorium, offering a direct and clear view.
The Dress Circle curves around the stage and is wider than it is deep. There are three pillars, two in row B and one in row F which can cause problems for those sat behind them. Sit as centrally as possible to ensure they don't affect the performance. The Upper Circle has only three rows and feels high above the stage. The view is a lot better than other venues, but seats towards the centre are on the whole better.
AccessibilityThe Criterion Theatre's auditorium is located below street level, consisting of three separate levels: the Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle. There is also a step-free entrance at Stage Door, which leads to two wheelchair spaces located at the rear of the Upper Circle. Once inside the theatre foyer, there are 32 steps down from the foyer to the Dress Circle and 54 steps down to the Stalls, with 23 steps up to the Upper Circle. Discounted rates are available to access patrons and their escorts.
There are 2 spaces for wheelchair users in the Upper Circle of the auditorium, although the Stalls, Dress Circle and bar are inaccessible. Drinks can be brought to access patrons in their seats. There is an adapted toilet near the alternative entrance to the Upper Circle on Jermyn Street.
For those with hearing impairments there is an infra-red system in all areas of the theatre, although there is no induction loop. Signed events do take place on occasion. Guide dogs are not permitted inside the main auditorium, although the management can look after up to 2 dogs during each performance elsewhere in the theatre.Access bookings telephone line 020 7492 9930 or access booking form
HistoryThe Criterion Theatre is one of the West End’s smaller venues, holding just 588 patrons at maximum capacity. The Grade II-listed building is situated in Piccadilly Circus and dates back to 1874, when it was opened to the design of architect Thomas Verity. It is an unusual building in that aside from the box office area the entire theatre is underground; indeed, upon opening the ventilation was so bad that the theatre had to be closed in 1883 to be renovated.
The theatre’s opening production was a combination of a play by Byron, piece by W. S. Gilbert and music by Alfred Cellier, with further farces and comic operas taking place throughout the 19th century. During the 20th century the theatre saw great success with a production of Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears, which ran for an impressive 1039 performances, as well as works like Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. For a while it looked as if the Criterion might be forced into redevelopment, but the creation of the Criterion Theatre Trust in the 1980s meant that the theatre’s future was once again secure.
Between 1996 and 2005 the Criterion hosted several productions by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, including The Complete History of America and The Bible, The Complete Word of God. During this period it also held early auditions for the reality show Pop Idol. In more recent years the stage of the Criterion Theatre has witnessed shows Otherwise Engaged and Mack and Mabel, with the current production being comedy The 39 Steps.