Set some thirty years before Neil Armstrong apparently went where no man had gone before, Clifford Odet’s Rocket To The Moon is Yet Another Revival about lust, love and undervaulting ambition.
The story takes place in the waiting room of dentist Ben Stark (Joseph Millson) where we see his affections shift away from his pecking hen of a wife Belle (Keeley Hawes) and towards his young and attractive secretary Cleo (Jessica Raine) who has also caught the eye of his rich father-in-law (Nicholas Woodeson) and his neighbour, a womanising dance producer. Stark could have been a contender but his ambition is day by day drifting away – can Cleo offer a way out?
While Odets' compatriots have turned on this play, calling it dated and anything but painless, there is much to enjoy in his often-amusing script. “In my younger days, I was inclined to poetry; in my older days, I’m inclined to poverty,” laments one of Stark’s colleagues while another describes love as “a curious sensation from below the equator.” Cleo herself admits "I can't read Shakespeare - the text is too small." Actingwise, only Woodeson stands out as the shameless suitor equally content to deride Stark's lack of ambition and laud Cleo's abundance of beauty.
Where we take issue is with having the entire cast made up of Britons putting on so-so faux-American accents. Maybe someone at the National Theatre is taking belated revenge for Shrek where a Canadian actor was used to voice a very Scottish-sounding ogre. Either way, it smacks of Shakespearean theatre where men portrayed all roles including those of women and girls - haven't we outgrown such attitudes?
Here’s a crazy idea: why not use American actors for plays like this with all-American characters? Its not like the NT is short of cash or connections and if there aren't enough suitable candidates available in London, we heard that there is an entire country full of them. Clydebourne Park also has a similar casting approach but it can forgiven because it is better written and, frankly, has far more to get your teeth into.