Criterion Theatre

Criterion Theatre

Criterion Theatre
Piccadilly Circus


The theatre can be seen on Piccadilly Circus next to the Eros statue.

Please note: the location shown on the map is an approximate location of the theatre. In the majority of cases the theatre will be marked on the map so please make sure you locate the exact location yourself. If the theatre is not shown on the map please make sure you locate the correct road name and take account of the directions.

Currently Booking

Criterion Theatre Information

Getting There

By Car

NCP car parks can be found in the following locations:

Brewer Street
Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0LA

St Martins Lane Hotel
45 St Martins Lane, London, WC2N 4HX

Grosvenor Hill
21 Grosvenor Hill, Mayfair, London, W1K 3QQ

You can see these, and other NCP car parks on their website http://www.ncp.co.uk/

However, you can participate in the Q-Parks Theatreland Parking Scheme and get 50% off your parking costs by validating your parking ticket in the foyer at the theatre.

For more information on Q-Parks Theatreland Parking Scheme either call +44 (0)870 442 0104 or visit Q-Parks website http://www.q-park.co.uk/theatreland

The closest participating car park for the Criterion Theatre is at Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2TS.
The rates for this car park are £6.50 per hour, up to 4 hours, and after that it is £38 for 24 hours.

Don't forget to pay the £11.50 (£1 less if you register, but that costs you £10 for a car) daily congestion charge for central London which applies from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays, if you are driving into London.

Alternatively, plan your journey using Transport for London journey planner https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/

Access Information

Tickets for patrons with access needs can be booked directly with the Criterion Theatre Box Office, either in person or by calling 020 7839 8811 and requesting to speak to the Box Office. Patrons with access needs can also email the box office directly at boxoffice@criterion-theatre.co.uk.

Discounts are available for all disabled customers and one companion.

The auditorium of the Criterion Theatre is located below street level.

There are 54 stairs down the Stalls level, 32 stairs down to the Dress Circle level, and 23 stairs to the Upper Circle.

Unfortunately there is no lift in the theatre, although step free access is possible to the Upper Circle level upon request.

There are two wheelchair spaces in the back row of the Upper Circle.
Wheelchair access is through the step free entrance beside the Stage Door in Jermyn Street, behind the theatre.

There is a portable induction loop available at the Box Office and a Sennheiser infra-red hearing system in all parts of the auditorium. Headsets are available for patrons from the Cloakroom. We also provide occasional sign language interpreted performances - please contact the Box Office for dates and more information on 020 7839 8811.

Male and Female toilets are located on far side of the auditorium between the Stalls and Dress Circle levels.

Accessible Toilet
There is one accessible toilet on the Upper Circle, with step free access from Jermyn Street upon request.

Guide Dogs
Assistance dogs are not allowed into the auditorium but theatre staff are able to look after up to two dogs per performance in the Theatre Manager's office. We also provide occasional audio described performances - please contact the Box Office for dates and more information on 020 7839 8811.

In The Area

Cash/ATM – Nearly opposite the theatre, next to Boots there is a Barclays branch. Don't forget, most of the London theatres do not accept plastic in the bar!

Eating – obviously, with the location of Piccadilly Circus there is no end to the choice of eateries in the area, from Cicchetti for Italian, to Bubba Gump Shrimp (yes, inspired by Forest Gump!) at 75 Trocadero on Coventry Street

Drinking – Carbon, in the Regent Palace Hotel is also on Piccadilly Circus; or Longitude 0°8' for cocktails and live music; try Carpo for a change for your coffee.


The Criterion Theatre has an official capacity of 591 on 3 levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle. Due to the construction of the theatre there are some seats with a restricted view.
The postal address of the Criterion Theatre is 2 Jermyn Street, , SW1Y 4XA.


The Criterion Theatre is a Grade II* listed building; which means it is a building which is particularly important and of more than special interest.

In 1870 the site of the theatre was originally the site of the White Bear, a 17th century inn. Thomas Verity was then commissioned to design a large restaurant, dining rooms, ballroom and galleried concert hall. After work had started it was decided to change the concert hall into a theatre. With the re-design the Criterion Restaurant and dining rooms were above the theatre, and the ballroom was at the top. The fact that the theatre was in the basement and lit by gas meant that the licence to operate was only granted on the basis that fresh air was pumped into the auditorium to prevent the audience being gassed! The building was completed in 1873.

In March 1874 An American Lady, together with Topsyturveydom was the first production and was not a great success. The productions that followed were not much more successful and in 1875 Charles Wyndham became the manager. Under his management the theatre became one of the most successful light comedy theatres in London.

Renovation works were needed because the fresh air pumping was no longer acceptable, and in March 1883 the theatre closed for the work to be carried out. The change to the ventilation system caused a large portion of the Criterion Restaurant to be cut off. Along with this work the auditorium was reconstructed, the stage re-equipped, new dressing rooms built, and most dramatic of all, electricity was installed!

After WW1 shows included Musical Chairs starring John Gielgud and French Without Tears. During WW2 the BBC requisitioned the theatre because of the fact that it was underground which made it a safer place and the BBC recorded and broadcast light entertainment from the auditorium. After the end of the war, productions included Waiting For Godot and The Waltz of the Toreadors.

During the 1970s there were protests as redevelopment was proposed on the site, and it was feared that the theatre would be lost. There was continued concern throughout the 70s and 80s when campaigners included some high-profile actors including John Gielgud, Edward Woodward, Diana Rigg, Robert Morley and Prunella Scales. When the building was purchased by property tycoon Robert Bourne he and his wife set up the Criterion Theatre Trust, which is a registered charity and was set up to protect the future of the establishment.

Between 1989 and 1992 the building was renovated internally and externally the area was redeveloped with the buildings that now surround the theatre. The theatre kept its Victorian auditorium and with it, its intimate atmosphere. Between 1980 and 1990, productions included Tom Foolery, Can't Pay? Wont Pay! and Run For Your Wife.

More recently the Reduced Shakespeare Company has made the Criterion it's home and productions included The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), The Complete History of America and The Bible, The Complete Word of God. ITV's Pop Idol first round recall auditions were held in the Criterion and the theatre is used by the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts for graduating students to perform their annual showcase.

For 6 years now, since 2006, The 39 Steps has been the resident play. Patrick Barlow adapted this for the stage from John Buchan's novel, and Alfred Hitchcock adapted the same novel for film in 1935.
However, the end is nigh for The 39 Steps – currently we only have tickets up to September 2015