My success as an art thief is due almost entirely to my clever fashion choice: sneakers, for sneaking.Plan the Perfect Heist at Sydney's New Immersive Escape Room

My illustrious new career started at Art Heist, the latest production from Jetpack Theatre, a collective that puts on interactive and immersive productions for audiences who are tired of sitting down at the theatre. The new-wave escape room is almost the complete opposite of what you’ve come to expect from the genre. Instead of working your way out of a locked cell, you’re tasked with breaking into an art gallery and stealing a priceless painting.

Like any good heist movie, you’ll want to assemble a team made up of the best of the best. The brains, the con artist, the thief, and the muscle all have roles to play, and it’s surprising how quickly our group took on distinct character roles. Go with people who you work well with together, but who you’re okay sacrificing to save yourself. Things get really intense really quickly and, in the end, what good is honour among thieves?

The game is set after dark when the gallery is closed for the night. Guards patrol the floor and call in anything strange they see or hear. Your team needs to coordinate your moves to bypass the guards and the security systems and make it out in one piece.

Our first step was escaping the bathroom. No, really. We got too into the game and locked ourselves away in the bathroom to discuss tactics out of earshot of the guards. After the organisers peeked through the door and assured us that the back room was our safe space, the real planning began. It made us a bit embarrassed, but also acutely aware of how immediate the sense of immersion was. The set is beautifully made and the actors play their parts well, and you really feel like you’re on a high-stakes job. Winning becomes more than just wanting to beat the game — you want to fit into this world and pull off the perfect heist.

Plan the Perfect Heist at Sydney's New Immersive Escape Room

There are different approaches you can take to reach the artwork, but the fun is finding these for yourselves. One little “what if?” can set your team down a totally different path. But with limited time, you’ll need to prioritise one plan and do everything you can to make it work. Instead of being restrictive, it means there’s lots of replay value, and it adds a sense of urgency and dogged determination to your crew.

But even the best laid plans can go to hell. My group planned our heist down to the last detail and we still ended up making a mad dash for it, alarms wailing and guards close on our heels. Don’t be discouraged if your plans derail — they almost definitely will unless you’re actually real life art thieves, and you can still claw your way to victory. Half the fun is improvising and making new plans on the fly in all the tense moments when you feel sure that you’re not going to make it out. At least with the huge payout from our mysterious client, we could afford extensive plastic surgery to change our faces.

The real success of Art Heist is that it makes you feel smart. Sure, all the information you need is laid out for you and the guards give you a few indirect clues, but you have to be aware enough to pick up on everything and distill it into a plan. It also feels alive, with the guards chatting away during the night. You leave feeling like you know them a bit, and this insight into their lives makes a close encounter so much more stressful.

The production has been wildly successful and so popular that more shows have been added in August. Riding on this success, I’d love to see Jetpack Theatre put on future games in larger venues with more actors and a little more time on the clock. Art Heist worked perfectly because you had such a limited time to execute a nail-biting plan, but some long-form games in other genres would allow more room for improvisation and storytelling and would be a great addition to Sydney’s growing cultural scene.

Art Heist is the perfect game for anyone who’s bored of the formulaic escape room and wants to live out their Ocean’s Eleven fantasy. It’s a truly immersive and interactive experience, and you’ll come out of it with lots of stories and the chance to tell your co-workers that you stole a painting when they ask you what you did on the weekend. It’s for sure the most fun I’ve had at a local event. Be the George Clooney or Julia Roberts of your team and lift that painting in your sneaky sneakers.

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