We were down in Sydney recently checking out a gallery exhibition at The Wade Gallery. Asked to steal the famous painting The Fat Dragon, we waited until closing time to begin a dramatic Art Heist.
Jetpack Theatre pop-up, 404 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, Sydney
Around 45 minutes
1-4 players allowed
Ends August 2017
How We Played
15 July 2017
Succeeded (sacrificing a team member)
Art Heist is not your average escape room. A hybrid between escape room and interactive theatre, it achieves its own unique feel. Though objective-oriented (like an escape room) it is almost completely free-form.
Actors playing guards add a great deal to the experience. Though we were never caught, so had limited interactions, it was really interesting listening to their banter, and they adapted fluidly to our actions. Art Heist relies on the quality of these actors, and they were perfect in every way. I never once thought of them as anything other than real guards.
The set is designed cleverly, with some cool interactive elements. Very little is out-of-bounds, and there is a use for almost everything. I’d also recommend spending some time observing the artworks before the heist proper begins – they are very entertaining! A lot of thought clearly went into the experience, and the result is a high-adrenaline experience that is sure to have you stifling laughter the entire time.
Jetpack Theatre provides plenty of stimuli in Art Heist, but it is up to you to plan and carry out the heist. The actors are incredible improvisers, reacting to our somewhat unconventional ploys with aplomb, which really made the experience.
The feel of Art Heist is very different to a standard escape room due to its open-ended structure. You have an objective, but there is no set path to achieving it. There are a couple of puzzle-like elements, but these are not the bulk of the experience (and can practically be ignored entirely).
As a result, Art Heist makes use of a completely different set of skills to standard escape rooms. Instead of using logic, deductive reasoning, maths, or association, you must use creative thinking, strategizing, social reasoning, and speedy improvisation.
Despite the choices, we never felt overwhelmed due to the thoughtful and generous provision of clues and visual indicators. It also helps that the game follows a sort of video game logic, and once you understand the rules it becomes easier to figure out what is possible. We are certainly no master thieves, but Art Heist allowed us to briefly believe we were with ingenious difficulty balance and responsive, adaptive actors.
The Bottom Line
In case it isn’t obvious already, Art Heist is a fantastic experience. Unfortunately it is only available in Sydney. More unfortunately it is almost completely booked for the remaining sessions, and it ends in August. What I do recommend, though, is to keep your eyes peeled for more escape room/interactive theatre hybrids. The presence of actors adds tension and excitement. The experience differs from regular escape rooms dramatically, less about impressive and clever designs and more about creating an immersive sandbox encouraging creativity and improvisation.
I hope to see events like Art Heist coming to Brisbane.
If this strikes your interest, a different kind of escape room/theatre hybrid is coming to Brisbane. From 18–29 October, zombies will overrun the Powerhouse in New Farm for a special event hosted by Directors of the Extraordinary. You can check out the website for more details on Containment HERE.