Located in the heart of Piccadilly, the Criterion Theatre has been home to some of London’s longest running and most beloved comedies and farces. Opened in 1874, the theatre was designed by the renowned architect Thomas Verity with the interiors by Simpson and Son.
As the theatre’s auditorium is located underground, it was used by the BBC during the London blitz as it could easily be transformed into a studio that was free from the threat of destruction. From here, many programmes were both recorded and broadcast live.
During the 1970s there were some proposals for the theatre’s redevelopment that threatened its future as a performance space. In the 1980s, however, the venue was purchased by Robert Bourne who set up the Criterion Theatre Trust to ensure the future of this venue as a space for the performance of plays. The Trust still owns the theatre.
In recent years the theatre has been the home of productions include the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) that ran from 1996 to 2005. From 2006 to 2015 the theatre hosted The 39 Steps, Patrick Barlow’s farcical adaption of the 1915 novel by John Buchan.
Since 2016 the theatre has been home to The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. The play, which was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, was nominated for Best New Comedy at the Olivier Awards 2017.