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One Hand Clapping – International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

Writer: Anthony Burgess

Adaptor and Director: Lucia Cox

Reviewer: Tracey Lowe

[Rating:4]

One Hand Clapping‘One Hand Clapping’ is an adaptation of the 1961 Anthony Burgess novel of the same name. Janet Shirley lives with her husband Howard, and both lead quite an unspectacular working class existence in the North of England. However, Howard possesses a special talent – a photographic memory. He uses this gift to compete on a game show, and wins a considerable amount of money. Following this, Howard’s behavior becomes increasingly strange, and their relationship takes a sinister turn.

Janet, a fantastic and likeable character, narrates the story. Resigned to the fact she will never change the world, she is comfortable with her limited potential. The twist at the end of the story reveals her to be a lot smarter than the audience have given her credit for. Her husband Howard is undoubtedly a caring husband; he is just confused and saddened by an ever-changing world.

Eva Burley gives a great central performance as Janet. On stage for the majority of the play, she is endearing, earnest and incredibly easy to watch. Oliver Devoti also does a great job portraying the slightly awkward Howard.

Adam Urey is the most exciting performer, playing two larger-than-life characters. He is note-perfect as cheesy game show presenter Laddie O’Neill, and absolutely hilarious as starving artist Redvers Glass.

The story itself starts well but drags a little towards the end. The denouement is satisfying; it just takes a while to get there. While the character is Redvers provides a bit of comic relief, he does little to drive the story along. His relationship with Janet does not have any noticeable affect on her marriage.

The set, designed by Meriel Pym, is very authentic, with a lot of 50s style furniture. The use of old television commercials between scenes was a lovely touch.

‘One Hand Clapping’ is an interesting story, and clearly has a deeper meaning beyond the obvious narrative. Lucia Cox’s adaptation effectively brings a lesser-known Anthony Burgess novel to stage, and provides an entertaining evening.

Runs until 16th March

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