One Hand Clapping is a work of Anthony Burgess published in 1961 about a dark-comic story of consumerism in England after World World II.

At 59E59 Theater, with about 50 seats only, One Hand Clapping is performed by the serious humorless husband Howard and his wife Janet, and a poet with whom she has her fling. Howard was able to win a big prize with his unusual gift, photographic memory, in a TV quiz show. And he managed to win horse races to make it even bigger pile of money. Though he decided to donate his prize to poor artists, which turns out to be the poet Redevers Glass, and bought expensive mink coat and arranged oversea trips for his wife, Howard felt more hollowness in this materialism and consumerism. In the end, he schemed to commit suicide with Janet on her birthday.

However, Janet didn’t see the world as corrupted and hopeless as Howard, and also she continued her affairs with Red. Eventually, she killed him with a coal-hammer and put his body into a chest. Together with Red, they fled out of England for their new life.

The title came from Zen koan, “Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?” Burgess justified the title as follows: “The clasped hands of marriage have been reduced to a single hand. Yet it claps.” In English expression, a more familiar expression is “it takes two to tango.”

Though most of the plots in the book was introduced mainly through Janet’s brief narration, as the first-person perspective of Janet in the book, the show doesn’t feel jumping too abruptly. I am more impressed by their strong English accents and find my accent has quickly been adjusted to theirs after one and half hour show.