A highly respected actress who began her career at the Bristol Old Vic, Sonia Fraser went on to win accolades as a director. She also bore the distinction of appearing in the original version of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver!.
As an 18-year-old in Bristol, Fraser joined a company whose members included stars such as Peter O’Toole, Moira Shearer, Annette Crosbie, Eric Porter and Phyllida Law. The series of plays in which they appeared were both thought-provoking and demanding – among them, Ondine by the French playwright, Jean Giraudoux, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Ben Jonson’s satire Volpone and Sheridan’s The Rivals.
Fraser subsequently appeared at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where she played Katherine to Albert Finney’s Henry V. She also spent some time with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Nottingham Playhouse and the BBC Repertory Company.
When Oliver! opened at the New Theatre in London in 1960, Fraser teamed up with Barry Humphries to play Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, an undertaker and his perpetually scowling wife. The show ran for more than 2,500 performances.
On television, Fraser appeared in two Arnold Wesker plays, Chicken Soup with Barley and I’m Talking about Jerusalem (1966). She was also seen with Glenda Jackson in the mini-series Elizabeth R (1971).
On radio, she played one of the elves in the original dramatisation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1981) and portrayed Angel One in the sci-fi series Earthsearch (also 1981).
Her work as a director began at the Mercury, Colchester, where The Stage praised her for “a beautifully tender production” of 84 Charing Cross Road (1984), starring Miriam Margolyes. She particularly enjoyed working with new writers and was awarded three Fringe Firsts at the Edinburgh festival.
Sonia Fraser was born on January 11, 1937, and died on November 12, aged 76.