The security guards are coming. Hopelessly trapped, I press my back against the gallery wall as if to melt into it. The heist is unraveling, and the final nail in the coffin has to be my clothing choices: no sneakers for sneaking. Plus, who wears a bright red jacket to a burglary?
I’m at the bottleneck of a session at Art Heist, a next-level escape room in Dulwich Hill. The mission? To retrieve a prize painting, The Fat Dragon, and return it to its rightful owner. Ahead of you are guards, codes, lasers, security cameras and 45 minutes to bypass all of it. Stressful – and a lot of fun.
Art Heist is the work of Jetpack Theatre, a collective which has staged interactive and unconventional theatre pieces since 2015, from murder mysteries at the Sydney Observatory to intimate performances on rowing boats. With a two-and-a-half month run, Art Heist is Jetpack’s biggest show yet. It’s been so popular extra shows have been announced.
Sleuths can try their luck solo or in groups of up to four, which is much easier. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated my friends as much as when their stomping distracted the guards away from my “hiding spot”.
Without giving anything away, we made it out with the painting, though not quite as smoothly as planned. Hatched with hushed voices in the gallery’s back room, our heist felt slicker than Lara Croft and the cast of Ocean’s Eleven combined.
Then, of course, an alarm was triggered and half of us were caught. According to Art Heist director Jim Fishwick, that’s pretty standard, though he’s seen some pretty out-of-the-box attempts alongside the rare artfully executed heist.
“To our mind, there's a perfect way to get the painting out, which involves none of the guards seeing you and not setting off any of the alarms at any point,” says Fishwick. “I think maybe two groups have done that in the time we've been running.”
“People have come up with creative ways of solving things that we haven't even thought of.”
As for my own heist, my group kept planning and strategising hours after we were back in the real world. Our next heist will be masterful. You’ll see – or, rather, you won’t.
Art Heist is on until August 27 at 404 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, with multiple sessions from Thursday to Sunday, plus Wednesdays in July.
This article was updated on July 6.