The BP Portrait award, now showing at The Dean Gallery in Edinburgh

I was utterly blown away by this today.  I was on my own but kept talking out loud with gasps of admiration.  And it’s free.  If you do not attend you are making a very big mistake with your life.

Huge, HUGE thanks to BP for sponsoring this for 20 years unbroken.

This was the overall winner.  Of course a crunched internet image can do no justice to the magical quality of the picture by Peter Monkman of his 12 year old daughter.  You’ll need to go see it in the flesh.

This is the description the National gallery uses…

Monkman was shortlisted for the first time this year, having been included in the BP Portrait Award exhibition in 1999, 2001 and 2003. Currently Director of Art at Charterhouse School, Surrey, Monkman, 44, studied visual arts at the University of Lancaster, John Moores University Liverpool and the University of London. The shortlisted portrait is part of a series of portraits of his daughter exploring the concept of the changeling, a child substituted for another by stealth, often with an elf. ‘I challenge the fixed notion of an idealised image of childhood and substitute it for a more unsettling, complex, representation that exists in its own right as a painting.’ The initial ideas for this portrait came from photographic studies of Anna playing in woods in Brittany where the light had a magical quality.

Other winners included this stunning photo-realistic painting of his son , Tom, by Michael Gaskell.

And another in the same vein, called Benfica Blue, won best young artist for Mark Jameson.  The detail on the girl’s face.  In the flesh is quite remarkable.

I loved this by Mary Jane Ansell, called Georgie but it failed to win a prize;

But, for me, the best in show went to On Assi Ghat by Edward Sutcliffe.  Yes.  It is a painting.

The Price at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

After The Lyceum’s seasonal break from straight theatre we are back with an emphatic bang.  Decsribed in Wikipedia as one of Miller’s lesser plays I have to say both I, and pretty much everyone I spoke to at the interval and afterwards, took a very different view on this superb four-hander.

Of course, it helps that the set is stunning and intriguing and seduces the eye from start to finish.  And it helps that the cast is collectively the strongest and most compelling I’ve seen on the Lyceum’s stage in the last two years.  These really are excellent, mature, gripping performances from the cast which includes Greg Powrie, Aden Gillett, Sally Edwards and James Hayes.  In particular, Greg Powrie as Vincent, the younger son is absolutely on top of his game.

The story is a simple one.  Two estranged brothers inadvertantly meet in the condemned home of their long dead father to dispose of the father’s furniture before the wrecking balls arrive.

They are joined by the younger son’s near alcoholic (and hideously social climbing and money obsessed) wife and an assett estimator (an 89 year old, world weary, Jewish dealer).  The negotiation of the price for the furniture is an allegory for their collective lives where each has paid a different price for care, love or success.

Whilst it is a heavy piece morally, there is considerable humour; mainly centred around the hilarious performance by the antique dealer, Solomon.

There could easily be a tendency to take this into shouty, screaming pitch territory as tension rises during the show but the Director (the excellent John Dove) resists and keeps everything JUST in control as emotions spill over.

At the interval someone described the script as poetry and like a painting by Rolf Harris in that you can just about make out where it’s going but you don’t know where it is going to end.

Time and again through the second act I reflected on that analogy as it’s true you really can see Miller effortlessly unravelling a mystery of the past as the back story is revealed with great dexterity.

This is theatre at its best.  Go see.