A hairdresser to the stars has turned the highs and lows of motherhood into a bitter-sweet comedy – in the unlikely setting of a call centre selling sex toys.
Anna Longaretti’s experiences of being a mum, from the decision to have a child to the difficulty of letting go as her daughter grew up, inspired her debut play Sex Cells.
She has teamed up with her daughter Saskia, now 25, who composed music for the play, opening next week at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios.
It is set in the call centre of a sex toy company, where four women with very different outlooks on motherhood work alongside one another.
Anna, who has styled the hair of celebrities ranging from a young Drew Barrymore to David Beckham, says each character represented a different aspect of her attitude towards becoming a mum.
“There’s a bit of me and my feelings about motherhood in all of them,” she says. “They reflect my thoughts before I had my daughter, while she was growing up and now, when she’s an adult.
“I remember having this very clear vision of how being a mum would be.
“It wasn’t till Saskia was born that I really appreciated the fact she was a separate person over whom I had such a massive influence. It finally struck home that it wasn’t about me, it was about her.”
The call centre staff in Sex Cells range from Tiffany, a 29-year-old with no plans to let a baby ruin her fun, to Janice, a mother of five who cannot remember who she was before she became a mum.
Anna says she identifies most with Sylvie, who at 65 is 10 years older than the playwright-producer and has a difficult relationship with her adult son.
“She’s a little bit abrasive like me. I’ve had to learn not to be quite so blunt,” she says.
“In terms of my relationship with my daughter, however, we couldn’t be much more different.
“They find it very difficult to talk but Saskia and I are very close. She was the first person who read the play, and she said ‘Mum, I think you’re on to a winner’.”
Lily, who is desperate for a child and is going through IVF treatment, completes the workforce in Sex Cells.
While Anna fortunately never required IVF, she says she knows women who have and how hard it can be.
“When you’re going through IVF, sex becomes something of a ritual, only done at a certain time, and it can lose its appeal,” she adds.
“I wondered what it would be like to work in a place where people are ringing up about sex toys because they just want to have fun, not understanding the agony you’re going through and what sex represents for you.”
Anna has been writing for more than 20 years but this is the first work she has had produced, after teaming up with her husband Mark Denton, of ad agency Coy Communications.
She said it was a huge thrill to finally get her work on the stage and she had barely had time for nerves to kick in because she had been so busy working on the production side.
- Sex Cells is at the Riverside Studios, in Hammersmith, from Tuesday to Sunday, October 27, with a mother and baby performance at 3pm on October 17. For tickets, priced £16, visit www.riversidestudios.co.uk or call 020 8237 1111.