Criterion Theatre



  • A London theater that was constructed below street level atPiccadilly circus (then called Regent Circus) in the 1870s. Originallyplanned as a large restaurant containing a small concert hall, itwas converted into a theater during construction. Uniquely, the uppercircle is reached by descending stairs. Contemporary press reportswarned that it would be necessary to pump in air "to save theaudience from being asphyxiated". The subterranean feature allowedthe BBC to use the Criterion as a studio during the Blitz.

    Today the theater seats 602. It has beautifully preservedVictorian tiles and wall decorations, and renovations in the late1980s uncovered remarkable murals.

    The Criterion, managed by the actor Charles Wyndham until1899, opened with H. J. Byron's comedy An American Lady. TerenceRattigan's French Without Tears opened in 1936 and ran for1039 performances, while Ray Cooney's 1982 farce Run for Your Wifelogged more than 2000 performances. From 1996 until 2005 it was hometo the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of WilliamShakespeare (Abridged), in which the Bard's complete oeuvre waspresented in 97 minutes. A stage adaptation of John Buchan's The 39 Stepsopened in late 2006 and is still running in 2010.