Italian-American actors Alessandro Gruttadauria and Wanja Sellers wanted to perform a two-hander together. How did the London International Gospel Choir, a trip to Cornwall and the humble pasty feed into their Camden Fringe collaboration? We talked to Sellers about Lost Keys and Orgasms at the Pasty Motel. Time to get booking!
Lost Keys and Orgasms at the Pasty Motel is a poignant, bittersweet comedy about Dino, a lost soul in London from a small town in Sicily, and Fran, his neurotic American boss. It runs at the Canal Cafe Theatre for five performances from 14 to 18 August 2019.
On a work-related trip to Cornwall, they lose the car keys at a Little Chef on the A30 and are forced to spend a night together in the last available room of the sleazy “Pasty Motel” where the sounds of love-making in the adjacent rooms makes conversation a challenge, yet through the course of a long and embarrassing night, Dino and Fran learn many things about each other and (most of all) about themselves.
Lost Keys and Orgasms at the Pasty Motel, presented by Goldcave and Figtree Productions, is based loosely on the concept originated in the 1999 comedy by Fiona Bettanini and Diego Ruiz entitled Pride and Orgasms.
Lost Keys & Orgasms at the Pasty Motel stars Wanja Sellers & Alessandro Gruttadauria
Talking to… Wanja Sellers
Born in Nairobi, Wanja Sellers grew up mostly in the United States. She studied acting with Herbert Berghof in NY and then for a short time with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (the same year as Colin Firth). She started her career in LA in soap operas, then in a long series of “B” horror movies in the US and Europe (mostly Italy) where she learned to screeeeeam! She met her husband, director Fabrizio Laurenti, on the set of a vampire movie.
In addition to acting, Wanja is a filmmaker. She has directed two feature films, as well as numerous shorts and docs. Her latest feature, The Orchard, a contemporary version of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, recently won Best Foreign Film at the Philadelphia Independent Film Awards, where Wanja was also nominated as Best Lead Actress. She won a lead actress award for the same film earlier this year, from London’s Latitude Film Awards.
Why did you first come to the UK?
I came to London from Rome four years ago to be closer to my daughters (basically I was stalking them). I thought it was a temporary move, but I soon realised that there were more opportunities in London than in Rome (a city we like to call “The cemetery of ambition”). Something else happened then: I fell in love with London. So I decided to stay on and try my luck!
How did this collaboration begin?
Alessandro Gruttadauria and I met about 20 years ago at a tap dance class in Rome, and subsequently, we worked together on a film, a TV show, and a web series. Though he will deny it, he followed me to London (stalker!) We met our director, Richard Heap, in the London International Gospel Choir that we all three sing with. They bonded in the bass section, and Alessandro asked Richard if he would work with us – what a good call!
What’s the piece that Lost Keys & Orgasms is based on?
When Alessandro and I were looking for a two-hander to perform together, we both vaguely remembered this play called Pride and Orgasms that was very popular in Italy in the early 1990s. When I read it, although I quite liked the idea, I realised it wasn’t what we were after. I preferred a different style and something that fit us better.
I wanted to change the story, the style, the dialogues and characters; in short, everything. I asked the authors if I could write my own play based on the premise of theirs. When they gave us permission, I joined Stewart Permutt’s writers’ workshop at the Actors Centre, and there I developed my own play, Lost Keys and Orgasms at the Pasty Motel. (Mary Jane Figtree is my pen name.)
Have you been to Cornwall?
I’ve been on a holiday to Cornwall and I thought it was very pretty, but I didn’t get the obsession with the Cornish Pasty. Maybe I just didn’t get a good one. I found the pasty to be a greasy, unappealing version of a Spanish empanada. The ones I ate were pretty disgusting, yet there were signs and postcards and pictures of them everywhere I turned, as though it was something to be especially proud of. I thought all they needed was to name a hotel after the food.
Why did you want to stage Lost Keys and Orgasms at Camden Fringe?
To be honest, we’d only heard of Edinburgh Fringe, but we couldn’t afford to go to Edinburgh. Someone in my writers’ workshop told me about Camden Fringe so I decided to apply. We got offers from several different theatres, but we chose the Canal Cafe Theatre because it felt just right for our show. We liked the size and location and cabaret-style. The people there are super-friendly and helpful. The Canal Cafe had hundreds of applications this year for the Camden Fringe, so we feel really lucky and pleased that they chose us.
What are your future plans?
We plan to continue developing Act Two and eventually to turn this into a full-length play with four actors. One act takes place in a bedroom at the Pasty Motel, the other takes place simultaneously in another bedroom in London. And that’s all I’m telling you!
As part of this year’s Camden Fringe, Lost Keys & Orgasms at the Pasty Motel runs from 14 to 18 August 2019 at Canal Cafe Theatre, 13 Westbourne Terrace Rd, London W2 6NG with performances at 7.35pm except 18 August at 5pm. Tickets are priced £12-14. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Full festival programme
For details on all 300+ shows in the 2019 Camden Fringe programme, visit the festival websiteClick here