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The ‘best’ bad guys in theatre

Published 31 March 2021

Whether it’s Simba and Scar or Agatha Trunchbull and Matilda, every hero needs a villain. With their outrageous musical numbers and scheming plots, despicable villains are a big part of why we love theatre. We’ve got together some of the bad guys we love to hate in the world of theatre.


Madame Morrible

Kim Ismay as Mme Morrible, Simeon Truby as Dr Dillamond and Nikki Bentley as Elphaba. Photo by Matt CrockettKim Ismay as Mme Morrible, Simeon Truby as Dr Dillamond and Nikki Bentley as Elphaba. (Photo by Matt Crockett)

Has there ever been a more horrible professor than Madame Morrible? As the headmistress of Shiz University’s Crage Hall in the box office smash Wicked, Madame Morrible is up there as one of the most loathsome villains in musical theatre. Conjuring cyclones and tricking students, thankfully Madame Morrible gets her just desserts at the end of the production as she’s marched to prison. If you haven’t seen this villain in the flesh – it’s time to book your tickets!



Scar, Simba and Nala masks from The Lion King at the Curtain Up Exhibition (copyright Jonathan Blanc & New York Public Library)

Any ‘90s kid will resonate with the fear felt when Scar popped up on the screen, and there’s no doubt that the theatre production of The Lion King has matched the legacy of the film. Based loosely on the plot of Hamlet, Scar is the archetypal bad guy. With his conniving manipulation and disregard for life, Scar lives up to expectations on the big stage as one of the most despicable villains around. If you haven’t had a chance to see the production yet, make sure to book your tickets to see Disney’s The Lion King in the West End. 


Agatha Trunchbull

Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre (Photo: Manuel Harlan)Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

While we’re on the subject of horrible teachers, Agatha Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical is up there as one of the worst. This wicked antagonist was inspired by a ‘mean and loathsome woman’ from Roald Dahl’s childhood named Mrs Pratchett and has been scaring kids for decades. With a pathological hatred for pigtails and disgust for children, Miss Trunchbull is an example of a villain written perfectly for the stage. 


The Woman in Black

Mark Hawkins in The Woman In Black (Photo: Tristram Kenton)Mark Hawkins in The Woman In Black (Photo by Tristram Kenton)

We couldn’t create a list of the ‘best’ bad guys in theatre without mentioning this spooky, unsettling and downright terrifying ghost. Written for the stage in 1987, The Woman in Black is a good old-fashioned ghost story that will test your nerves to the limit. The frightening but stunning set and character design of The Woman in Black theatre production is the perfect foundation for one of the most terrifying antagonists in any play. 




Liam Tamne in The Prince Of Egypt. Photo by Tristram Kenton.Liam Tamne as Ramses in The Prince Of Egypt. (Photo by Tristram Kenton)

The Prince of Egypt‘s Pharaoh Ramses is certainly a compelling villain. His pride and ambition to overshadow his father’s rule is inexplicably selfish as this comes at the expenses of other’s livelihoods. These traits, combined with his pure stubbornness, makes Ramses easily one of the top villains we to love to hate in theatre.

Fun, fiendish and frightening, villains are a huge part of why we love theatre. From one of Roald Dahl’s most evil villains in Matilda The Musical to the spectacle of Scar in The Lion King, the theatre is packed with a variety of top tier villains.



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