STAGE REVIEW: A Princess Undone, at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, October 31, to Saturday, November 4, 2017.

A PRINCESS, a gangster and a bolshie butler, not to mention a shady visitor, are the cast of four in this pacy and considerably thought-provoking play that was inspired by actual events.

Picking up a cushion in Apartment 1a at Kensington Palace, the princess in question, Margaret, looks at the statement it’s emblazoned with and reads its message with a somewhat heavy heart.

“It’s not easy being a Princess,” states, HRH and then what unfolds adds more than a touch of credibility to those words as well as creating some sympathy.

It’s back in 1993 when Margaret flounces into her mother’s home, with the Queen Mother away in Scotland, and is all prepared to carry out a plan to spare the Royal family from the grief of more harmful revelations.

Margaret, who was for many Royal followers the Diana of her day, was faced by limited options during her lifetime to play a greater role in the Royal Family’s activities, but now sees the situation as an opportunity to be of service to the family business.

She has acquired numerous sensational letters and photos from Charles and Diana relating to their doomed marriage - along with countless newspaper cuttings, and she means to burn them all.

Margaret may have given way to Diana as the media darling, but it transpires there are other papers and photos which relate to Margaret herself. And when a young man who claims to be an old school chum of her son, Viscount Linley, shows up followed by the arrival of an ex-gangster admirer, the Queen’s sister has the choice to make or break her family yet again.

Some of the satire is scintillating, although there are times when jokes misfire - perhaps lost in the mists of time and not helped by a sound system in need of a boost.

Margaret may have been one of the firm’s most controversial figures of recent decades but Richard Stirling’s script and Harriet Thorpe’s dynamic portrayal of an emotionally mixed princess tormented by desires for drink and a little carefree fun and flirting, provides substantial empathy.

Harriet has been a familiar face in television and films for years - well known especially for her roles in The Brittas Empire and Absolutely Fabulous, and she doesn’t disappoint here, particularly in the ‘double-act’ with ‘Backstairs Billy,’ Billy Tallon, the Queen Mother’s butler, whose nickname is reference to his dubious dalliances with young men.

The princess’s own dalliance with former gangster John Bindon also resurfaces when he visits the palace with more letters and photos that pose a problem, but this time for Margaret herself. It could be blackmail or make it public and be damned!

Charles Daish’s Bindon is suitably sincere and sinister in equal measure as the tension rises but has clearly met his match in Margaret, who was then subsequently left alone with memories of what her life had been. Those words embroidered on the cushion seemingly more poignant at that moment…

Princess Margaret may not mean a great deal to the younger generation who may feel there is little relevance to their lives today. And this probably explains why there were more worldly-wise heads in a sparsely filled auditorium.

A Princess Undone is currently on a short UK tour prior to a brief spell in London. Surprisingly it’s 15 minutes shy of two hours in length, including the interval. It’s short, it’s sharp and sheds a little more light on the difficulties some princesses have to face.