Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ BBC December 2015

How long does one have to wait for stunningly good design work to get the acknowledgement it deserves .. a few weeks, half a year, a couple of generations, until the next century? Although it’s only been a matter of days I feel I’ve waited long enough for any direct mention of how bold yet subtle, how grim yet beautiful, how risky yet fitting the visual work on And Then There Were None was!

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015 soldier figurines

It’s not by chance that I’ve put an image of the figurines here first .. they are the initial reason why I was compelled to write this. I kept asking myself  ‘Am I really the only one who found these figurines so captivating?’ Although with hindsight I realise now ..yet again .. how biased my viewpoint is, I was half expecting a nationwide reaction, a flood of questions online .. where did they come from, who created them? After all, they played a central role in the piece, as much as any of the actors did, and they obviously meant a great deal to the programme makers .. they are the subject of the title sequence, and the camera lingered on and revisited them more than was necessary for the storytelling.

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015 title sequence

'And Then There Were None' dinner scene

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

But I’m also surprised that the figures haven’t excited more comment yet due to their unusualness, at the very least .. their departure from convention. Maybe it’s because they seemed to be quite at home there .. odd yes, but fitting, in keeping .. because although nothing much like them existed at that time, they could have been conceived in extremis from the period ingredients. As if, a young Reg Butler had been locked in a room of American deco under the influence of Futurist narcotics!

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

'And Then There Were None' BBC 2015

So I just want to both thank and congratulate the, as yet for this, almost completely unsung stars who conceived and created these .. along with every other finely crafted, well-considered, delicate or brutal visual moment.

'And Then There Were None' devil's cauldron

And that’s basically all I wanted to say! .. except that, if you’re one of the 5 million or so who didn’t watch it between Christmas and the New Year .. you should .. and you’ve got another three weeks to watch all episodes on BBC iPlayer for free. If you’re at all interested in design it’s a must, and you should watch it first without pausing, for pure enjoyment, as it was intended .. and then a second time to study how powerful design, camerawork and music can be when they’re properly working together; how little is actually needed to achieve this, but how delicate the balance can be.

18 thoughts on “Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ BBC December 2015

    • Hello Roberta,

      Yes I discovered after a while they were designed and made by a young costume/prop-maker Isabelle Riley .. a real surprise actually, since for me they had all the signs of a ‘seasoned’ sculptor. Scroll down the comments to read what Thomas Anthony has to say about them.

  1. I found these statutes completely mesmerizing, from their hint of humanity, to their broken jigsaw base. I don’t know anything about art, and I don’t own anything that could remotely be deemed artistic, but I would love to buy a reproduction of these statues…if anything like that might be available?

  2. I loved the programme too. My first thought on seeing the figures was “Vaseline Glass” which was a popular material in the early twentieth century for small domestic decorative items. Made with uranium, the glass glows green and got it’s name from its supposed resemblance to Vaseline brand petroleum jelly. The glass is “radioactive”, which even if unintended, makes it a fitting material for the characters.

      • Hello David,
        I am completely captivated by these figurines, I paused the show every chance I could and took pictures with my phone, and then thanks and praises, I found some one else who had the good sense to appreciate these most wonderful works.
        I too, believe the nation should wake up and acknowledge this incredible sculptor. The rounded forms accented with a small straight line in the right place, in perfect balance. A joy to look upon !!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will enjoy this film more than once.

        Patty Bourne

  3. Thanks for such lovely words David – You will be very happy to know that actually one of your former students, Isabelle Riley, designed and made the figures. Each is based on a main character; a single character aspect in particular for each (such as Jealousy, Lust, Etc), and they are influenced by the work of a number of sculptors of the time. They are all individual, and carefully use layers of transparent and clear resin to build up a jade effect. They are in fact incredibly beautiful up close and in the light – I feel they were not seen to their very best on screen! The base is laser-cut brass which was aged with antiquing fluid. The ‘cracked’ pieces actually fit together as a whole, although for the shoot we spaced them out a lot. An awful lot of very talented prop-makers, painters and carpenters worked on And Then There Were None, but I’m afraid only the full-time art department are ever credited on TV… there just isn’t time for everyone else.
    Thomas Antony Lowthion, Ass. Art Director And Then There Were None (and also former student of David’s!)

  4. I saw the programme and like you I was really taken with the piece, but felt sure it was just made for the programme and not on sale to the public

    • Absolutely Patricia! .. I felt there couldn’t have been anything approaching it, whether Cubist, Futurist, Art Deco, 1930s or even later. It was a hybrid! See the comments and links that have come in since.

  5. Hi David – yes, it was fab, wasn’t it? Just in case you haven’t read about the figures and how they were designed – Sophie Becher, the production designer said this:

    “Regarding the figures that represent each person stranded on the island I started looking at a lot of sculptors that had done these Cycladic figures from the period, but also contemporary sculptors too. We felt the figures would be quite good if they were cubist and abstract. Each figure we made has been made around the characters in themselves, but based on the theme. There’s arrogance, greed, judgement which is Wargrave, envy, piousness which is Emily. The audience won’t notice that when watching, but it always helps when designing to have concept in mind so then you can get a character out of these little figures. Craig very much wanted them to be standing on a circular metal disc like the sun or moon, and I wanted it to be shiny so the figures reflected in the disc. These figures which we cast in resin then made to look like jade are each on a shaped base, but the bases all slot together like a jigsaw. So again if you break the jigsaw, how can you piece it back together? You can’t once one piece has gone!”

    Best wishes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s