The Criterion Theatre is a fully restored Victorian theatre located in London’s West End beneath Piccadilly Circus. It is the current home of the smash hit Olivier Award-winning comedy, the 39 steps, an imaginative reworking of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film, starring 4 actors playing 130 characters.
In 1873, work was completed on the Criterion, the building, which is now Grade II listed, comprised of a restaurant, some dining rooms, a ballroom and a galleried concert hall – in the basement.
The theatre opened on the 21st of March 1874 to very little critical acclaim with a double bill consisting of An American Lady, written and performed by Henry J Byron and Topsyturveydom, by W. S. Gilbert with music by Alfred Cellier.
Fortunately, the lukewarm reception of the first productions didn’t put an untimely end to the theatre, which has gone on to play host to a plethora of commercial and critical successes over the years.
Past and present productions at The Criterion Theatre
If you were to visit the Criterion today, you’d find punters queuing out the door for performances of The 39 Steps , the hugely successful comedy currently enjoying a run that started in 2006.
Other key productions include:
- Run For Your Wife – Ray Cooney’s hilarious farce ran from 1983 to 1989
- Loot – Joe Orton’s camp classic starred Michael Bates and Kenneth Cranham and was the Evening Standard’s Play of the Year in 1966.
- Waiting For Godot – As London recovered from the devastation of WW2 The Criterion put on a production of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play in 1955
What’s the best way to reach the theatre?
Finding the Criterion should present no significant problem. Thanks to its convenient Central London location there are an abundance of public transport links.
The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines), which is a 1-minute walk away, or there’s Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines), which is a 3 minute walk away, or Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo lines) which is a 5-minute walk away,
Charing Cross Railway Station is a 5-minute walk away.
There are a number of buses that stop close to the theatre. They are the 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 159 and 453.
Santander bike hire docking stations can be found close by Piccadilly Station.
Where are the best places to eat around Piccadilly Circus
Criterion Restaurant, 224 Piccadilly
An incredible and opulent restaurant in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. The neo-Byzantine design is as impressive as it is enchanting. Now under new management, expect flawless service and unrivalled cuisine.
Jamie's Italian Piccadilly, 17-19 Denman Street
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s flagship restaurant, where you might have to wait for a table but you’ll be glad you did. Specialising in Jamie Oliver’s unique take on Italian cuisine, this restaurant is a huge hit with locals and tourists alike. The Penne Carbonara comes highly recommended.
Ten Room at Café Royal, 68 Regent St, London W1B 4DY
Whether you’re looking to treat yourself or are celebrating a special occasion, This impressive British restaurant could be just the thing. Ten Room at Café Royal is housed in a luxury hotel and serves modern and classic cuisine.
I want to make a weekend of it, where can I stay?
Hotel Cafe Royal, 68 Regent Street
The Hotel Café Royal is one of the nearest five-star hotels to the Criterion and as such is the perfect choice for your overnight stay if you’re looking for convenience and luxury.
W London Leicester Square, 10 Wardour Street
If you’re looking for more than just a bed for the night, look no further. The W London Leicester Square features a five-treatment spa, a fitness centre and on-site dining you’ll find it hard to beat.
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1D 7DT
The Ham Yard Hotel is where you go for style and comfort. Located a short walk from the theatre it’s convenient and cool.
What nearby sights and attractions should I also visit?
Ripley's Believe It or Not, The London Pavilion, 1 Piccadilly Circus, London W1J 0DA
A firm favourite with families, Ripley's Believe It or Not is well worth a visit if you’re looking to kill some time before your show. You’ll find plenty of kitschy curiosities on display in this fantastic and unusual museum.
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
If you’re looking for something a little more highbrow then try the Royal Academy of Arts, where you’ll generally find two exhibitions running simultaneously so there should be something for everyone.
5D World London, Trocadero House, 13 Coventry Street, London W1D
5D World is fun for all the family, where you’ll find mind-blowing movie experiences, arcade machines, basketball machines and air hockey all under the one roof.