The Unfriend Tickets

Criterion Theatre, London
Booking to 16 April 2023

Manners can be murder in middle class Britain

Direct from Chichester Festival Theatre, The Unfriend is a satirical look at middle-class England’s disastrous instinct to always appear nice.

Written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and directed by Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentleman, Sherlock) this hilarious new comedy stars Reece Shearsmith (Inside No.9), Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) and Frances Barber (Silk).

The Unfriend is booking from 15 January 2023 until 16 April 2023 at the Criterion Theatre in London.

What's the story of The Unfriend?

While on holiday Peter and Debbie befriend Elsa: a lusty, Trump-loving widow from Denver, USA. She’s less than woke but kind of wonderful. They agree to stay in touch – because no one ever really does, do they?

When Elsa invites herself to stay a few months later, they decide to look her up online. Too late, they learn the truth about Elsa Jean Krakowski. Deadly danger has just boarded a flight to London! What began as a casual holiday friendship is now a threat to the lives of their children.

Peter and Debbie now face the ultimate challenge of the modern world – how do you protect all that you love from mortal peril without seeming a bit impolite?

Because guess who’s coming… to MURDER.

The Unfriend takes a hugely entertaining and satirical look at middle-class England’s disastrous instinct to always appear nice.

Who is in the cast of The Unfriend?

Reece Shearsmith (Inside No.9), Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) and Frances Barber (Silk) lead the cast of The Unfriend.

The cast also includes Michael Simkins, Marcus Onilude, Gabriel Howell and Maddie Holliday, with understudies Charlotte Bradley, Christopher Jordan, Barnaby Taylor and Cathy Walker.

Who are the creative team of The Unfriend?

The Unfriend is written by Steven Moffat with direction by Mark Gatiss, design by Robert Jones, lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Ella Wahlström and casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG.

Reviews of The Unfriend

★★★★ "The laugh-out-loud tale of a decidedly terrifying interloperr" - The Telegraph (Criterion Theatre)
★★★★ "Steven Moffat’s comedy hits the funny bone" - The Times (Criterion Theatre)
★★★★ "Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat give us a riotous bit of fun" - The Evening Standard (Criterion Theatre)
★★★★ "This is very funny theatre" WestendTheatre (Criterion Theatre)
★★★★ "Effortlessly entertaining" - The Telegraph (Chichester Festival Theatre)
★★★★ "A hilarious dark comedy of good manners" - The Stage (Chichester Festival Theatre)
★★★★ "Cringe-tastic" - The Guardian (Chichester Festival Theatre)

Read more reviews

Show Information

Performance dates
Booking to 16 April 2023
Age restrictions
Running time
2 hours (including interval)
Performance days
Evenings: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Matinees: Thursday, Saturday, Sunday

Performance information is for guidance only. Check booking calendar for details.

Show Photos

Cast Highlights

Venue Information

Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London, SW1Y 4XA
Nearest Tube or Train: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly line, Bakerloo line)
Nearest Buses: 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 159, 453

Ticket Information

Official London Theatre tickets for The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre, London

Book tickets to The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre with You will be purchasing official London theatre tickets from an authorised retailer and member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.

The Unfriend booking calendar and seating plan→

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News about The Unfriend
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The Unfriend seeks a friendly new home in the West End
The producers of hit comedy The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre are looking for a new West End venue for their play. The show is scheduled to close at the Criterion on 16 April 2023, making way for Dickens mash-up Bleak Expectations, which runs from 3 May to 3 September 2023. Written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock), The Unfriend is directed by Mark Gatiss and stars Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington and Frances Barber. The Stage is reporting that the play has broken box office records at the Criterion, with producers saying that it's the only show at the Criterion to have ever held more than £1 million in advance sales at the box office. The Unfriend started its run on 15 January 2023 at the Criterion Theatre, following a successful premiere at the Chichester Festival Theatre. The comedy scored mainly good reviews for its current London run. The cast also includes Michael Simkins, Marcus Onilude, Gabriel Howell and Maddie Holliday, with understudies Charlotte Bradley, Christopher Jordan, Barnaby Taylor and Cathy Walker. Some complex negotiations are presumably going on behind-the-scenes between the producers of the comedy, Playful Productions, and West End theatre owners, to try and secure a new London venue. It's extremely tough to book a West End theatre at the moment, with more shows wanting to come in to London than there are theatres, partly due to the backlog of projects that built up over the Covid shutdowns. That may explain why the show's producer, writer and director have all made impassioned statements to The Stage to highlight the show's current - and potential ongoing - success. Producer Matthew Byam Shaw, from Playful Productions, said that, "Our run at the Criterion has left us all wanting more and we are determined to find a way to bring the show back and let more people revel in the brilliance of Steven Moffat’s writing and Mark Gatiss’ direction." Steven Moffat also commented that, "Given our packed houses and the roof-busting level of our laughter, it’s hard to believe it all has to end on April 16. But who knows?"; and Mark Gatiss said: “It’s pure joy to sit among the Criterion audience having an absolute whale of a time at our show. And it’s thrilling to see just how popular it’s proved to be. It would be wonderful to think that, unlike an unwanted house guest, The Unfriend is here to stay." Playful Productions are no strangers to moving West End shows when they are successful. They are currently producing Ivo van Hove's adaptation of A Little Life starring James Norton, which opens at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London on 25 March, and then - due to unprecedented demand - relocates to  the Savoy Theatre in London from 4 July to 5 August 2023. Both venues are owned by ATG. Playful are also general managers of Wicked and Moulin Rouge! in the West End, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and My Fair Lady on tour, and the forthcoming West End transfer of MJ The Musical. The Criterion Theatre, owned by The Criterion Theatre Trust, is one of the few remaining independent theatres in the West End not owned by a large group. Shows do manage to leave the Criterion for other venues! Prior to The Unfriend, 2:22 A Ghost Story made a stop there between the Delfont Mackintosh-owned Gielgud Theatre and Nimax-owned Lyric Theatre, where it is currently playing starring Cheryl. The Unfriend is directed by Mark Gatiss, who is on a London theatre roll at the moment. He recently directed new play The Way Old Friends Do at the Park Theatre, which had its press night on Monday and runs until 15 April. It was also announced this week that his production of A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story, which he adapted and directed, is heading back to the Alexandra Palace this Christmas. Plus he is keeping his hand in on acting, starring as John Gielgud in the new Jack Thorne play The Motive and the Cue at the National Theatre in April, directed by Sam Mendes. Book tickets to The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre in London
Review: The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre ★★★★
Following its sold-out run at Chichester Festival Theatre, The Unfriend transferred this week to the West End's Criterion Theatre. This hilarious comedy is from the brilliant trinity that is writer Steven Moffat and director Mark Gatiss, the team behind BBC’s Sherlock, and star of stage and small screen Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9) in the role of Peter. Other stand out performances in this stellar cast are Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) as Peter’s wife Debbie, and Frances Barber (Silk) as brash American Elsa Jean Krakowski. The play begins onboard a cruise, where middle aged, middle class British couple Peter and Debbie befriend Elsa: a loud, if somewhat infectious, Trump-loving widow from Denver, USA. They politely agree to stay in touch – exchanging email addresses without any real intention of seeing Elsa ever again. When are they ever going to be in Denver? However, out of the blue a few months later, Elsa invites herself to stay in Peter and Debbie’s “tiny” (according to Elsa!) suburban home. In advance of her arrival, Peter and Debbie decide to glean a little more detail about their incoming houseguest by visiting Google. Moments before a knock at the front door, they learn that Elsa Jean Krakowski is a wanted serial murderer in America, causing Peter to wish aloud for an immediately effective Facebook “unfriend” button. Panic ensues as the couple struggle with their overwhelming urge to remain polite and not to offend their guest, whilst fearing for their lives and those of their “impressionable” teen children. Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber, Reece Shearsmith - Photo by Manuel Harlan The play effortless romps along with great physicality, underpinned by a tight script and packed with some stand out one-liners. Well-crafted characters, down to a next door neighbour played convincingly by Michael Simkins, are real and relatable. The teen offspring of Peter and Debbie unwittingly become close to Elsa during her week-long stay. Alex, played by Gabriel Howell, beautifully captures the uniform of ennui worn by many a mid-teen. Rosie (Maddie Holliday), their daughter, is convincing in her earnest concern and outrage about being kept out of the loop of family issues. Despite their horror at the idea of welcoming a potential lethal weapon into their home, Peter and Debbie are forced to acknowledge the changes for the better that Elsa appears to have triggered. Lethargic Alex undergoes a transformation from moody teen to motivated, cycling, jogging and hugging loving son and brother. Even Peter is now voluntarily calling his 92-year-old Mum for a chat. Elsa is exuberant, brash but ultimately rather likeable. As the play progresses into the week of Elsa’s stay, the audience, alongside Peter and Debbie, are left wondering if it’s really possible that Elsa could have committed multiple murders. Her mere presence, and family-therapy style gems of wisdom, ultimately bring the family closer together. However, be under no illusion, this is a black comedy with laser sharp one-liners. When noticing the systematic improvements Elsa is making to their family life, Debbie refers to Elsa as “Murder Poppins” causing an instantaneous eruption of laughter from the audience. Reece Shearsmith, Frances Barber, Amanda Abbington - photo by Manuel Harlan Overall, the standout performance is from Reece Shearsmith. His cringe-worthy awkwardness and compelling urge not to offend is embodied in both his side-splitting facial expressions and whole-body demeanour. Well observed, capturing both the mundanity of suburban family life and the painfully polite manners of typical middle-class Brits – this is very funny theatre. The Unfriend is at the Criterion Theatre until 16 April 2023. ★★★★ Review by Louise Benham
The Unfriend transfers to the Criterion Theatre starring Reece Shearsmith
Chichester Festival Theatre's production of The Unfriend is heading to the West End. The show is hitting the Criterion Theatre for a 12 week run from 15 January to 16 April 2023. The Unfriend is written by acclaimed TV writer Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock), and brings together The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss as director and Reece Shearsmith as star. Gatiss is making is West End theatre directorial debut with the show. Shearsmith returns to the play following the Chichester run, alongside his existing co-stars Frances Barber and Amanda Abbington. The play got solid reviews when it opened in Chichester in June 2022, with the Guardian giving it four stars and calling it a "cringe-tastic" evening. The Unfriend show follows middle class couple Peter (Sheasrmith) and Debbie (Abbington), who meet an overly friendly American called Elsie (Barber), on a cruise. Back home, and with barely any warning Elsie turns up – and a quick internet search means Elsie is more than she appears. Writer Steven Moffat said in a statement: “I am beyond thrilled that The Unfriend is going to the West End. Working on this show with my old friend, Mark, and my new friends, the amazing cast and crew, has been one of the happiest experiences of my professional life. They’ve all been very kind to a beginner.” Director Mark Gatiss said: “I’m absolutely chuffed to be bringing The Unfriend to the Criterion after a joyous time in Chichester. What we all need now is a really good laugh and Steven’s gloriously naughty play brings that in spades.” Book The Unfriend tickets at the Criterion Theatre in London
Amanda Abbington & Reece Shearsmith ">
The Unfriend – first look starring Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith
Production images have been released of The Unfriend at Chichester Festival Theatre starring Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith. Written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Dracula) and directed by Mark Gatiss, The Unfriend is an amusing and satirical take on middle-class England's instinct to always appear nice. The show follows middle class couple Peter and Debbie, played by Shearmith and Abbington, who meet an overly friendly American called Elsie, played by Barber, on a cruise. Back home, and with barely any warning up turns Elsie - a quick internet search and Elsie is more than who she appears. Can Peter and Debbie bring themselves to say anything? Reece Shearsmith, known for The League of Gentlemen tv series, was last seen at Chichester in The Dresser, Reece’s recent work also includes Hangmen (Royal Court) and TV’s Inside No 9. Amanda Abbington, whose credits include TV’s Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, and The Son in the West End, makes her Chichester debut as Debbie. Frances Barber, last seen at Chichester in Uncle Vanya (1996); her extensive screen work includes The Mezzotint, Silk and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. The cast is completed by Gabriel Howell, Maddie Holliday, Michael Simkins and Marcus Onilude The Unfriend runs until 9 July 2022 in the Minerva Theatre at Chichester Festival Theatre. [ngg src="galleries" ids="808" display="pro_tile"] Photos by Manuel Harlan.
The Unfriend - Chichester Festival Theatre">
The Unfriend announces Chichester dates starring Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber
Sherlock and Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat's new play The Unfriend finally has production dates! Originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed due to Covid, The Unfriend will run at Chichester Festival Theatre from 21 May to 9 July 2022. Directed by The League of Gentleman's Mark Gatiss, the new play stars Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith. Other cast include Maddie Holliday and Michael Simkins. The play centres on Peter (Reece Shearsmith) and Debbie (Amanda Abbington), who after twenty years of marriage are enjoying a cruise as a break from their annoying teenage children. Peter can’t resist exchanging views on Donald Trump with an American fellow passenger, Elsa Jean Krakowski (Frances Barber). There’s something slightly unsettling about the eagerly friendly Elsa, but there’s no point in rocking the boat when you’re about to get off it. Back home, an email arrives from Elsa, followed by Elsa herself. And when Debbie googles their house guest and turns up some hair-raising evidence, their good nature is challenged as never before. What kind of danger have they allowed to take up residence in their spare room? And can they bring themselves to say anything about it? Sometimes, the truth is just too impolite. The Unfriend promises to be an entertaining and satirical look at middle-class England’s disastrous instinct always to appear nice. Manners can be murder.... Steven Moffat is an award-winning writer, whose hit television series include Doctor Who, Sherlock and Dracula – the latter two co-written with the actor and writer Mark Gatiss, who directs. Mark Gatiss is also a member of the sketch comedy team The League of Gentlemen alongside Reece Shearsmith, who plays Peter. Reece Shearsmith was aast seen at Chichester in The Dresser, and his credits also include Hangmen (Royal Court) and TV’s Inside No 9. Amanda Abbington's credits include TV’s Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, and The Son in the West End. Frances Barber was last seen at Chichester in Uncle Vanya (1996). Her screen credits include The Mezzotint, Silk and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. The Unfriend is designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Ella Wahlström and casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG. Steven Moffat posted on Twitter in 2020, "Sorry to those of you who booked, but that's The Unfriend delayed till next year – we'll put an extra joke in it to make it worth the wait!" Chichester has also announced a huge slate of new shows for 2022 as part of their 60th anniversary season including a new production of Crazy For You directed by Susan Stroman, and musicals including The Famous Five: The Musical and Local Hero. Read more about the new season.

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