Actors, directors and producers always love playing the Criterion Theatre. The Piccadilly Jewel Box has a uniquely magical atmosphere. From the stage, its auditorium is like a wide smile, and from the auditorium, the stage is close enough for intimacy and a real connection with the actors and the drama being presented.

The 150th Anniversary—the Sesquicentenary, if you want the posh word—is a perfect time to celebrate the Cri’s unique place in the West End, and to do so in a way that helps new audiences find this very special London treasure.” STEPHEN FRY, CHAIRMAN, CRITERION THEATRE TRUST

It's 150 years since the Criterion Theatre opened its doors for the first time. And we're inviting you to help us mark the occasion with a series of events to celebrate our history and look forward to the Cri’s future:

Dress circle

150th Anniversary Gala 24th June 7pm

Celebrate 150th Anniversary

Join us to celebrate 150 years of the Criterion Theatre in a special one-off gala performance hosted by Stephen Fry celebrating the Cri's rich theatrical past, present and future.

It promises to not only be a memorable night of live entertainment but also an opportunity to celebrate the future by fundraising for our 150TIX campaign. The Criterion Theatre Trust will offer 150 free tickets a week this Spring and Summer to young theatre-goers under the age of 21 to foster a love of live theatre in the next generation.

Cast and details to be announced

Tickets available at criterion-theatre.co.uk/150thAnniversaryGala

150TIX

To celebrate 150 years of live theatre here at the Cri we are offering up to 150 free tickets a week to young people under 21.

The scheme is being extended to introduce as many young people as possible to the thrills, spills and edge-of-the-seat moments that only live theatre can bring. The initial period will be open to schools and community groups before being opened out to the wider community – a spark we hope will encourage the next generation of theatre goers and theatre practitioners for The Cri.

Tickets are currently available for performances Tuesday to Friday evening and Wednesday matinees until the 28h June.

For more information contact [email protected]

Actors
Stage
Gallery

Kids Week Activities

Make the most of the summer holidays and keep your kids entertained with our fun-packed and educational theatre skills workshops.

We will be running these popular workshops during August, with an introduction to lighting, sound, direction, stage management and playwriting. More details to follow.

Kids week activities

Theatre Talks

Join us for a programme of free talks on the architectural and creative history of the Criterion.

Free to attend. Dates and booking details to follow.

Tickets available at criterion-theatre.co.uk/theatretalks

Truth by Brosnan Howard

150 Years in Five Eras

A lot has happened both on and off our stage in 150 years. This year we have been spending time looking back and split our history into five eras:

1874-1899

A new circus comes to town

Built on the site of the 17th century White Bear, The Criterion music hall quickly establishes itself as one of London's leading comedy venues. By the 'naughty nineties', The Cri is regularly delighting audiences from its home in the heart of London's decadent theatreland.

Notice
A little bit of fluff

1900-1935

The show must go on

The Cri does its bit to boost war time morale: A Little Bit of Fluff by playwright Walter W Ellis runs for 1,241 performances, helping raise Londoners' spirits.

With the arrival of electric billboards in 1926, even the Depression can't stop the razzle dazzle of Piccadilly. In 1932, the Cri sees a young John Gielgud, not yet a Sir, take to the stage in Musical Chairs.

John Gielgud, Musical Chairs
 

1935-1959

We interrupt this performance to bring you the blitz

The Cri remains 'dark' for the duration of World War II, requisitioned by the BBC as a subterranean radio studio.

Bruised but unbroken, Londoners emerge from the war and embrace a new era of playwriting. The Cri is at the heart of this movement, with the original production of Samuel Beckett's iconic absurdist play Waiting For Godot transferring from the Arts in 1955.

 

1960-1989

London swings, the Cri survives

The swinging sixties bring some memorable productions to the Cri, including plays by John Mortimer, Harold Pinter and Joe Orton.

In 1972, the Cri is saved from the threat of redevelopment as big names rally to its cause.

The Cri embrace its comedy roots in the 1980s, with long-running productions of brilliant farces Can't Pay? Won't Pay! and Run For Your Wife.

Run For Your Wife
 
The Reduced Shakespear Company

1992-2024

A restoration, a pandemic and lots of joy

In 1992 Sally Greene sets up the Criterion Theatre Trust, which oversees a complete restoration.

 

The coming decades see some huge successes, including almost decade-long runs from the Reduced Shakespeare Company and The 39 Steps.

Four years of The Comedy About A Bank Robbery come to an abrupt end in March 2020 when the theatre closes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When theatreland re-opens, audiences crave feel-good vibes and the Cri delivers with the musical Amelie, followed by a joyous take on Jane Austin's masterpiece, Price and Prejudice (sort of).

SesQuincentenary
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