12 September 2009

Thurrock Youth Theatre - Sonja Kristina Shaw - Merchant of Venice

Thurrock Youth Theatre created a production of the Merchant of Venice early in 1966, in which I played the part of Salarino. This was a very good production in my opinion, and extremely dramatic. Interesting with the new ideas on Shakespeare - was he Italian, or did he spend time in Italy to understand the way of life in Venice? It was a very exciting time to be playing these roles in a local theatrical group.

Peter Green, the History teacher at Ockendon Courts school, was also the key person who ran the adult group, the Courts Players (now called the Thurrock Courts Players - great to see they are still performing), who performed various plays at the Ockendon Courts School hall in the 1960s. I particularly remember a great production of the "Love of Four Colonels" by Peter Ustinov, which made a big impression on me.

Peter Green also ran the Thurrock Youth Theatre group and he was behind many productions, including the ones I was involved in. In Peter Green's version of the Merchant of Venice, I was particularly taken by the folk-singing of Sonja Shaw - she also played the guitar as well as being a promising actress - and Sonja was later portrayed on the front cover of the BMG magazine that I subscribed to:

Sonja Shaw (Sonja Kristina) on cover of BMG magazine October 1968

... Her name's Sonja - Sonja Shaw. She's nineteen, and a RADA student who specialises in guitar and vocal music over a wide field.

I met her when the Mazda people put on a display of some fantastic new studio lamps they'd just invented. Sonja's job was to sing and play the guitar in front of colour TV cameras and monitors while the lights were demonstrated. She did it superbly well - no easy job, with twenty kilowatts of bright hot light belting down on her for several hours!

I was much impressed. Easy, relaxed, with a sweetly pretty singing voice and a well worked out guitar accompaniment, she showed a remarkable professionalism.

She told me she has plenty of bookings - including, at that time, the Jimmy Logan Show in Scotland.

Here she is on the front cover - a symbol of vitality and youth, and of the ever-increasing interest in the fretted instruments.

Where are you now Sonja Shaw, you were such a lovely person ... ? Below is the programme for the Merchant of Venice play from 1966:

Thurrock Youth Theatre - Merchant of Venice page 1

Thurrock Youth Theatre - Merchant of Venice page 2

Thurrock Youth Theatre - Merchant of Venice page 3

Thurrock Youth Theatre - Merchant of Venice page 4

This was the text we used for the production:

Sonja Kristina played Nerissa in Merchant of Venice

OK I just found some new information with the help of Google [April 2012]: Sonja Shaw became Sonja Kristina at some point, and she has been involved in various groups performing folk rock and acid folk. I never knew that Sonja was in "Hair" - there is even a video of her in 1968:

Sonja singing Frank Mills from Hair

Then Sonja became involved with Curved Air and was featured in various videos from the time:

Sonja singing Melinda (more or less) with Curved Air

Sonja singing It happened today with Curved Air

Sonja was also involved in the Thurrock Youth Theatre play East Lynne in which I was a fellow cast member. This was reviewed in the Thurrock Gazette. Sonja's father was the headmaster at Ardale school in North Stifford.

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