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One Hand Clapping

From 14 critic and 1 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

About the show

He leads a humdrum life in a northern town in England, but Howard has a talent: a photographic memory which he uses to win a TV quiz show. More…

Adapted from Anthony Burgess's 1961 novel, this is the darkly comic story of Howard and Janet Shirley, whose boring lives are turned around when he wins a game show. With his winnings, he and Janet travel the world, seeing everything they can. But upon their return, a disillusioned Howard makes a sinister proposition to Janet. Presented by 59E59 as part of their "Brits Off-Broadway" Festival.


"While 'One Hand Clapping' has moments of total absurdity, the characters are relatable and wholly interesting. The cast does a great portrayal of the story's humor, drama and action...You will deeply consider this show's characters, laugh a little, raise your brow and gasp. 'One Hand Clapping' is an unforgettable theatrical experience." Full Review


"'One Hand Clapping' is a throughly enjoyable night of theatre...It's a show for fans of 50s game show nostalgia, dark comedy, and general anglophiles alike, and is not to be missed as a part of the always unbeatable Brits Off-Broadway festival." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"A well-crafted staging that may leave audiences with unanswered questions about the central couple...The performances by the trio are uniformly strong and engaging...Although I didn’t fully click with the story, it’s a thought provoking play by one of the twentieth century’s most trenchant commentators, one whose catalog has been somewhat overlooked in recent decades, and is therefore worth renewed interest." Full Review


"With slow, episodic pacing and action regularly punctuated, the play is clearly very beholden to its source material...Only in fully embracing the unique opportunities theater provides does this play move beyond its source material and into a powerful work of art...A chilling and accessible take on the novel, intimate and well-performed, and still as relevant today." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"Fatalism, consumerism and a heady love triangle lead to a deliciously wicked conclusion in director Lucia Cox’s adaptation of 'One Hand Clapping'...a historically astute production of a tale that is still relevant; universal themes of passion, egoism, entitlement and celebrity make 'One Hand Clapping' accessible across generations, though perspectives will no doubt differ wildly." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'One Hand Clapping' is not meant to be taken literally. Its tone is sardonic, its characters and situations exaggerated. Dialogue is pointed, aimed at the educational system, our consumerist society, and the dumbing down of humanity, especially by television...The play has little venom but lots of laughs. Nothing wrong with that." Full Review

The New York Times

"If its darkly comic story doesn’t seem especially insightful today, it’s because so many others have mined the same territory in the past 54 years...It’s amusing, though at this point not blazingly original...'One Hand Clapping' is more history lesson than revelation." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"More than half of the play is narrated, keeping it from building much dramatic momentum. There are far too many lengthy pauses between scenes, creating a choppy rhythm. And the climax, which involves life-or-death matters, is insufficiently dramatic...A not entirely successful adaptation, the worst thing you can say about 'One Hand Clapping' is that it might stir up some interest in Burgess." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"On the whole the show—a sort of fable concerning society’s cultural and spiritual degradation at the hands of advertising, commercialism and globalization—is a suffers from a critical lack of suspense; watching it feels like listening to a joke that takes nearly 80 minutes to set up—by the time we get to the climax there is no punch line that can save it." Full Review

GQ Central (UK)

for a previous production "We have House of Orphans and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to thank for shining a light on Burgess’s black comedy, ‘One Hand Clapping’...This darkly comic satire of drab English consumerism feels as relevant today as it must have done when Burgess wrote it in 1961...This sold-out show was a revelation." Full Review

Manchester's Finest (UK)

for a previous production "'One Hand Clapping' casts a jaded eye over our values, drawing a conclusion that still resonates fifty years on...a fantastic theatrical homage to the 1961 novel...This acerbic and comic three-hander explores the darker side of consumerism and the effects of the quest for convenience’s well worth checking out." Full Review

The Public Reviews

for a previous production "Lucia Cox has done a fine job in turning Burgess’ dark take on modern culture into an inventive, witty, and highly entertaining piece of theatre." Full Review

The Good Review (UK)

for a previous production "The performances were good, with a lightness which made what sounds like a heavy and grim plot quite amusing in that northern ‘60’s kitchen sink kind of way...From the plot description I was expecting a play full of light and shade – in that respect I was a little underwhelmed, but on the whole I found it charming and extremely thought provoking production." Full Review

What's On Stage (UK)

for a previous production "Unrequited love, in all its directions, is tenderly introduced but unsatisfyingly never explored with the sincerity it deserves, and at times the contrast in Janet and Howard's vision - which is imperative to justify the conclusion - seems weak and ambivalent...'One Hand Clapping' is an enjoyable if bitter-sweet portrait of the struggling sanctity of lifetime togetherness amidst the darker side of convenience culture. Daringly surreal and innovatively executed." Full Review

Clever, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like period pieces, you like dark comedies, you like Anthony Burgess.

Don't see it if You want something upbeat.

Cast & Creatives

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