This is Terry Mackay's first play, and it seems to have arrived prematurely on stage, short of muchneeded refinement and revision.

It is not helped by questionable casting, a lack of subtlety from director Guy Retallack, and by performances which seem not so much unconvincing as unconvinced.

What might have been an interesting theme - the idea that the extraordinary qualities required of a successful bomb disposal expert might imply corresponding character flaws - gets lost in flimsy melodrama and general implausibilities.

As the play opens Gregor, the bomb expert now semi-retired to advisory status, and his wife Ann are expecting a visit from television journalist Alastair and his wife Mima. Gregor and Mima, we soon discover, are former lovers whose affair in Belfast he abruptly terminated.

Gregor is additionally distracted by the fact that there is an ongoing terrorist stand-off involving an old adversary.

Already I am struggling with this. For instance, why would Gregor and Ann invite a journalist they have never met to stay the night, particularly when their daughter is apparently about to give birth, prompting Ann's sudden nocturnal departure?

But this business of Gregor and Mima's past affair is a real problem. Just how long ago are we talking about? Her previously undelivered and somewhat antique birthday present, a Supertramp cassette, suggests as long ago as the 1980s - but that's an incredibly long time to have been carrying a torch, and she looks far too young.

On the other hand, it might all make more sense if Gregor was ten years younger - but here we have Timothy West, an actor who has already given us his King Lear more than once.

So for me National Hero fell at the first fence, because I didn't believe a word of it.

* Running time: One hour, 50 minutes. Until Saturday.

Terry Grimley