ON Saturday, October 3, at 8.59am a group of actors including Jude Law will be on the small island of Osea, off the coast of Essex, seconds from hitting record on a unique TV first.
For 12 hours, the cast of Sky and HBO’s new show The Third Day will be performing continuously, in real-time, for a “completely unique” TV event that falls in the middle of what would otherwise be a typical six-episode series.
Three separate but interconnected stories, told in three parts – Summer, Autumn and Winter – The Third Day launches with its first “regular” episode next week, telling the story of Sam (Law), a man who is drawn to the mysterious island but becomes trapped and isolated from the mainland.
After the three episodes of Summer comes Autumn, the 12-hour theatrical performance, and then the final section, Winter, which sees Naomie Harris arrive as Helen, a headstrong outsider who is also drawn to the island, searching for answers (it’s all very mysterious). Emily Watson, Paddy Considine and Katherine Waterston also feature.
When the single-camera starts to roll for Autumn, the behind-the-scenes team who have been working on this project for the best part of a decade will be excitedly but no doubt nervously watching to see how it unfolds.
Will the characters get to eat? Will Jude Law be able to go to the toilet? What happens if an actor goes off-piste? And who’ll be first to realise they’ve forgotten to switch off their phone?
In a recent interview with the show’s creators, writer Dennis Kelly and Felix Barrett, founder of interactive theatre specialists Punchdrunk, explain how it’s all going to work.
‘One camera, following the cast for 12 hours. It’s as simple as that. Viewers will follow the events of a single day in real-time broadcast as-live from the island. In one continuous take, the rituals and traditions of the islanders will be revealed further.’
According to the blurb, it will “blur and distort the lines between what’s real and what’s not”.
“Once we press go at nine o’clock in the morning, the actions just play out as if they were real over the next 12 hours,” says Barrett. “It’s going to be pretty unprecedented.
“We want to capture the frisson of live performance… we’re really trying to capture that sort of brittle, fragile nature of ‘anything could happen’. We wanted to lean on the spontaneity of once, and once only.’
“There’s no right or wrong way to watch it. We just encourage the curious to watch Summer and then, at some point on 3 October, switch on and see what happens.”
“Actually the whole thing is completely, meticulously choreographed and planned,” says Barrett. “But… for the performers, being inside their character, you can’t completely choreograph that because the sheer rehearsal time would be mind-blowing.
“So it’s sort of semi-improvised within a really, really set structure. The choreography of the camera alone has to be utterly meticulous for it to have a chance of working.”
It all seems pretty extreme from both the actors and the viewers perspective. Could you sit and watch the same show for 12 hours straight?