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At the heart of The Church of the Clitori, a two-woman show that is part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, is a celebration of a body part long steeped in mystery, taboo, prejudice and misinformation.
The clitoris, said to derive from the Greek kleitoris, is an erogenous organ in female mammals.
Malika Reese and Lilian Rodrigues-Pang’s show focuses on historical, religious and clinical education surrounding female genitalia.Credit:
Compelled by the idea of starting a church to revere the organ, Lilian Rodrigues-Pang and Malika Reese, creators and performers in The Church of the Clitori, seek to worship and commemorate the clitoris “as the one true path to salvation”.
“It’s a fun and interactive celebration of female bodies,” Reese says. “It’s tongue-in-cheek, educational, hilarious and full of joy.”
Created with fellow theatre artist Tia Wilson, the show runs similar to a church service with Rodrigues-Pang and Reese as High Priestess and Labia Majora, each dressed in flowing sparkly pink robes with 3-D-printed clitoris jewellery.
Focusing on historical, religious and clinical education surrounding female genitalia, there’s a segment dedicated to gods and goddesses and a sermon “from the mound”.
Props include “her-books”, rather than hymn books, and songs ranging from Slow Sweet Clitoris to Clitoral Rain and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
Rodrigues-Pang says initiated members of the Church of the Clitori, of whom there are many after shows in Adelaide and Darwin, commit to practising self-love.
Reese and Rodrigues-Pang, both from the Illawarra, say they are as keen to entertain and spark laughter as they are to enlighten audiences, champion body positivity and correct misinformation.
“It was in the 1990s when Australian [urological surgeon] Helen O’Connell mapped the full anatomy and nerve pathways of the clitoris,” Rodrigues-Pang says. “It’s only last year they started putting the dorsal nerves of the clitoris into anatomy books.”
One major mistruth Reese and Rodrigues-Pang tackle is the regular misuse of the word vagina in relation to female genitalia.
“It’s become an all-encompassing term for the clitoris, mons pubis, labia, urethra and the vaginal opening,” Rodrigues-Pang says. “But the outer part of the female genitalia is actually called the vulva.
“And no, your mother did not drive one of those.”
The pair say the show, which debuted as a short piece at The Vault Cabaret in Port Kembla in 2019, provokes passionate responses.
“There’s a lot of riotous laughing,” Rodrigues-Pang says. “People love it. All ages. All genders. They have such a good time.”
After the show, audiences are given the opportunity to study an anatomically correct 3D-printed clitoris close-up, and perhaps give their vote for setting up an actual Church of the Clitori.
“There’s been such a big response we’ve looked into setting one up,” Rodrigues-Pang says. “That would be the ultimate goal.
“We are just two people who are overwhelmed with creating [theatre]. But if there are people out there who would like to join, please get in touch.”
Ultimately, Rodrigues-Pang and Reese hope The Church of the Clitori helps people rediscover, celebrate and further their worship of the clitoris, whatever their gender.
“The clitoris is the only organ in the human body that’s just for delight and pleasure,” Rodrigues-Pang says. “It doesn’t serve a function to anyone, or anything, else but to lead us to delight and joy. And maybe that’s what we’re all here for.”
The Church of the Clitori is at the Sydney Fringe Festival Cabaret Hub, September 26-30 and Melbourne Fringe, October 9-15.
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