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8 Characters We’d Burn in Effigy on Bonfire Night

5 November 2018 by John Staughton
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Autumn in London means pulling on warm jumpers, dreading the savage winter ahead, and lighting things on fire. More specifically, on 5 Nov., people across the UK celebrate Bonfire Night – traditionally known as Guy Fawkes Day – to commemorate Fawkes’s infamous plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament more than 400 years ago. Both a point of British pride and Catholic controversy, this holiday often includes setting off fireworks and burning effigies of particularly unpopular public figures.

In the spirit of this fiery celebration, here is a villainous list of nine characters we’d like to see burnt in effigy this year. However, if you want to do your research before lighting a powder keg beneath them, you can also see these characters and their devilish deeds on the London stage this season.

Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at Palace Theatre
Whether you loved “Harry Potter” since the first book appeared back in 1997, or leapt onto the magical bandwagon a bit later, you certainly know the name Voldemort, or He Who Must Not Be Named. This masterfully crafted villain is the evil wizard that haunts Harry’s steps throughout the original seven books, but even death can’t keep him from causing more chaos in the Potterverse. In “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the production at the Palace Theatre that snagged a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards in 2017, Voldemort may be gone, but his sinister influence is far from over. For more than 20 years, this dark wizard has inspired nightmares, earning him a top spot on the Bonfire Night pyre!

Scar in “The Lion King” at Lyceum Theatre
The desire for power has spawned violence and villainy in countless forms, even in the animal kingdom. This is certainly true in the plot of “The Lion King,” where Scar, Simba’s scheming uncle, hides his vengeful teeth behind a dangerous smile. Scar sets the events in motion that lead to Mufasa’s death, and then steps into the power vacuum, all under the guise of protecting the pride and helping Simba cope with his pain. This classic Disney movie has been adapted into a marvelous stage musical at the Lyceum Theatre, where you can experience the evil of this manipulative monster for yourself.

Jafar in “Aladdin” at Prince Edward Theatre
In another classic Disney film adapted for the stage, the Prince Edward Theatre is running its enchanting production of “Aladdin,” complete with jovial genies, talking parrots, magic lamps and, of course, the evil specter of Jafar. Once the sultan’s most respected advisor, this practitioner of dark magic has only one goal, seizing power in the kingdom and eliminating those who would stand in his way – including Aladdin.

Veronica in “Heathers” at Theatre Royal Haymarket
In the dark teen drama “Heathers,” Veronica may not be your classic villain, but she is involved in numerous murders and finds herself at the center of the chaotic plot. In London’s new musical production of “Heathers,” Carrie Hope Fletcher takes on the role of Veronica, and with croquet mallet in hand, runs rampant across the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage. Given her penchant for cliques and bullying, there are plenty of young girls and boys who might burn an effigy of this violent vixen.

Henry VIII in “SIX” at Arts Theatre
Although this infamous English King takes a backseat (and doesn’t appear) in the punchy production of “SIX,” there’s no denying that he was a murderous monarch that went through wives like napkins at a pig roast. His six wives take center stage in this gut-busting musical, which stole the show at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and figuratively sets him ablaze for his litany of sins.

Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” at The Park Theatre
For more than a century, “Peter Pan” and his “never grow up” attitude has been thrilling audiences around the world with whimsy and wonder. However, every hero needs a villain, and Captain Hook does not disappoint. Determined to crush the innocence of childhood and destroy Pan and his Lost Boys, this one-handed pirate king definitely deserves to burn on Bonfire Night. Before you light the match, however, catch Alexander Vlahos as the notorious Captain in the Park Theatre’s production of J.M. Barrie’s beloved classic.

Tom Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” at Gatsby’s Drugstore
When it comes to literary villains, Tom Buchanan of “The Great Gatsby” ranks higher than most. Between causing the deaths of two characters, lying with unabashed freedom, and viciously manipulating the emotions of his wife and Gatsby, this hulking beast of a character is a magnet for disdain. He represents the old world of lavish wealth and power, making him an ideal effigy to immolate on Guy Fawkes Day. You can also watch his malice unfold on stage at Gatsby’s Drugstore this season in London.

Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda” at Cambridge Theatre
The magical mischief of “Matilda”  has entranced readers and audience members for years, but it is the malevolent Miss Trunchbull that send shivers down the spine. Merciless and cruel, the headmistress takes particular pleasure in torturing the titular character, but Matilda is far from helpless. Miss Trunchbull is easy to hate, so add her effigy to your list, or simply see her madness firsthand at the Cambridge Theatre this fall.