If you like a little edge to your weekends, then look no further than Essex, only a stone’s throw from London. Osea Island lies in the Blackwater Estuary and is in fact accessible by road – more on that later - yet if feels like it exists in another realm. Perhaps this is why it was chosen as the location for the new television series, The Third Day. There’s no doubt this tiny island, only 1.5km square, covered in meadows, orchards, woodland and saltmarsh, offers plenty to keep a director happy. Owned by music producer Nigel Frieda, Osea has often been used as a film location, appearing in, for instance, The Woman in Black. It seems, however, to have taken the starring role in The Third Day, which is saying something when Jude Law and Naomie Harris are the lead actors.
Aptly enigmatic, a place where the cry of rare seabirds can pierce the early morning mist rolling in from the estuary, Osea appears perfectly matched to the daring TV series in which it stars. A psychological thriller, The Third Day pushes the boundaries of television, with an audacious set-up: a different lead actor for each half, and a live 12-hour episode in the middle. Like Osea itself the show has been shrouded in mystery, with audiences kept in the dark as to how the ‘live’ part will actually play out. British Theatre troupe, Punchdrunk, the series’ collaborating partner, puts the audience at the centre of the action. Founder Felix Barrett explains, ‘What happens when the fourth wall, the screen we're watching, collapses in front of us and actually audiences are able to fall inside the world of that TV? What's the liminal space between the real and the fictional? This is an amazing sort of space for the audience to be in when they're questioning the validity of everything.’
The plan for the television series had been to bring a thousand participants to Osea to take part in the ‘live’ part of the programme. But with recent events this has turned into an online event. The happy side-effect, however, is that the island and a new restaurant which was to support the cast and audience, opens its doors to the public.
Blending ‘Hamptons glamour with British sensibility’ the island has to date been largely hidden from the public, mainly used to host music industry parties. Last year, for example, Rihanna rented it to record her upcoming album. Now, for the first time, visitors can come to dine at a new restaurant Native, which has moved from its London Bridge base to overwinter here. Opening at the end of October, diners will be transported across the water for a local and seasonal dining experience which aims to tell the story of biodiversity through a tasting menu. Think oysters, samphire and smokey beetroot haché.
Intrigued? If you want even more than the TV experience, you can now visit Osea and even stay in one of its handful of cottages. This is where it gets tricky, though. A rugged, tidal causeway, built by the Romans, links the island with the mainland, which means that it is only accessible at low tide, for about four hours every day. So, it’s not the sort of place you go to on a whim. You have to plan your getaway there, or you might just be stranded.