Criterion Theatre London


A wickedly inventive parody of Victorian melodrama” The Times

Bleak ExpectationsJoin a medley of much-loved faces including Tom Allen, Adjoa Andoh, Alexander Armstrong, Jo Brand, Jack Dee, Stephen Fry, Nish Kumar, Lee Mack, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miller or Sue Perkins* in this “irresistible”(The Times) stage adaptation of the award-winning BBC Radio 4 comedy series Bleak Expectations. Follow the hilarious misadventures of the young Pip Bin – tragic half orphan, hopeless romantic and would-be-hero – as this glorious Victorian mash-up arrives at the Criterion Theatre for a limited season from the 3 May.

Not all at the same time, obviously, that would be ridiculous*

Bleak Expectations is the riotous story that Charles Dickens might havewritten after drinking too much gin. Follow Pip’s extraordinary exploits with sisters Pippa and Poppy plus best friend Harry Biscuit as they attempt to escape the calculating clutches of the dastardly Mr Gently Benevolent, defeat the hideous Hardthrasher siblings, and deflect disaster at every turn!

Will evil be vanquished by virtue? Can love triumph over hate? Escape with this joyfully anarchic comedy featuring barbarous boarding schools, contemptible conspiracies, roaring romances, devilish disguises, and definitely, probably, hopefully, a happy ending!

  • 3-7 May: Nina Wadia
  • 9-14 May: Dermot O’Leary
  • 16-21 May: Sally Philips
  • 30 May – 4 June: Sue Perkins
  • 6-11 June: Julian Clary
  • 13-18 June: Adjoa Andoh
  • 27 June – 2 July: Lee Mack
  • 4-9 July: Stephen Mangan
  • 11-16 July: Jo Brand
  • 18-23 July: Tom Allen
  • 25-30 July: Jack Dee
  • 1-6 August: Alexander Armstrong
  • 8-13 August: Stephen Fry
  • 15-20 August: Ben Miller
  • 29 August – 3 September: Nish Kumar

Bleak Expectations Tickets

Criterion Theatre, London
3 May 2023 – 3 Sep 2023
2 hours 15 minutes (inc. interval)

The Criterion Theatre London
Piccadilly Circus, London, SW1Y 4XA

Venue and Travel Information
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Tube Lines: Bakerloo, Piccadilly
Directions from nearest tube: The theatre can be seen on Piccadilly Circus next to the Eros statue.
Railway Station: Charing Cross
Bus Numbers: (Haymarket) 3, 6, 12, 13, 19, 23, 38, 88, 139; (Regent Street) 14, 15, 22, 94, 159, 453
Night Bus Numbers: (Haymarket) 6, 12, 23, 88, 139, 159, N3, N13, N18, N19, N38, N97, N136, N550, N551; (Regent Street) 14, 94, 159, 453, N15, N22, N109
Car Park: Leicester Square, Whitcomb Street

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Criterion TheatreThe Criterion Theatre London
In 1870 following the acquisition of the site of the 17th century White Bear Inn and adjoining properties between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly Circus (known as Regent Circus). Caterers Spiers and Pond commissioned Thomas Verity to design a development that would consist of a substantial restaurant, dining rooms, ballroom, and galleried concert hall. Having started building work it was decided to change the proposed concert hall, (though retaining the composers names which still line the tiled staircases to this day), to a theatre that opened on 21st March, 1874.

The opening productions were An American Lady, written and performed by the manager Henry J Byron and a piece by W.S. Gilbert titled Topseyturveydom.

Under the management of Charles Wyndham, The Criterion established itself as the leading comedy house in London. Between 1920 and 1940 productions included Musical Chairs with John Gielgud, and in 1936 a three year run of French Without Tears which founded the career of Terence Rattigan.

During the Second World War The Criterion was taken over by the BBC. As an underground theatre it was suitable for light entertainment both recorded and live. Following the war, were productions such as Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and pieces by Anouilh, Dario Fo and others.

In the 1970′s the Criterion Theatre site was proposed for redevelopment, which caused significant public protest as people feared the theatre would be gone forever. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the Equity Save London’s Theatre Committee organised demonstrations. Notable campaigners from the world of stage included John Gielgud, Diana Rigg, Edward Woodward, Robert Morley and Prunella Scales. Finally, the theatre’s future was secured, although subsequently, the theatre closed for three years from 1989, until reopening in October 1992 while the Criterion block that stands today, was constructed around it. With significant refurbishment both backstage, and in the front of house, The Criterion Theatre has retained an almost perfectly preserved Victorian auditorium. From 1996 to 2005 The Reduced Shakespeare Company entranced audiences with their 30+ snippets from Shakespeare, even with one performance being performed backwards! The theatre retains its Victorian auditorium which ensures the Criterion retains an intimate and atmospheric presence for those on stage and in the audience. The 39 Steps closed on Saturday 5th September 2015.


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