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

Thank you to everyone who helped us to celebrate 150 years of The Cri at our gala performance on 24th June.  

A very special thank you to all who have donated to our 150TIX scheme to support our giving up to 150 free tickets a week to under 21 year olds to see a live performance at The Cri. With the help of your donations, we hope to continue the scheme in September.

If you would like to donate please scan the attached.  £15 gives one child a seat at a performance and you can donate in multiples of £15.

Thank you!

Multiples of £15 or £150 



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 9th August 2024

For more information contact [email protected]

Kids week activities

Theatre Talks

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

18 July - 11am

The Criterion Theatre – The Buried Jewel of Piccadilly - by Mark Fox

In this presentation the history of the Criterion Theatre site and building will be fully explored.

Originally the location of a coaching inn the development of an entertainment complex was made possible by the Victorian redevelopment of London to improve transport links and hygiene.

Architect Thomas Verity won a competition to design the theatre which has survived in its original form, with regular improvements, thanks to the wonders of modern engineering and building practices.

Illustrated with photographs and plans the various difficulties faced by successive independent managements to ensure the Grade II* theatre has remained a focal point of the West End scene for 150 years will become clear.


25 July - 2pm

The Criterion Theatre – Topsyturveydom to Two Strangers,150 years of stage magic - by Mark Fox

Since opening under the management of H J Byron 150 years ago the Criterion Theatre has been at the heart of London’s West End physically and spiritually. As fashions change so has the programming in order to ensure continued success in a precarious industry.

This presentation will highlight the changing nature of productions across the years and the creatives and performers involved in creating stage magic with limited resources. Punching well above its weight the theatre has enjoyed many long running shows including Ray Cooney’s Run For Your Wife, Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps and a ten year residency by the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

From WS Gilbert to Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn the intimate auditorium is ideal for drama, comedy and small scale musicals under the watchful eye of Managers including Charles Wyndham, Ian Albery, Sally Green and the current operators The Criterion Theatre Trust. 

Free to attend, but please reserve a seat:

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:


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.

A little bit of fluff


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


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.



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


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).

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