Generally, after the lights have descended on a theatrical performance, it’s considered a faux pas to sneak to the bathroom and back – but in Jetpack Theatre Collective’s Art Heist, it’s just the first of many faux pas you are both expected and encouraged to commit in this escape-room-modelled experience.

The Fat Dragon, a painting of enormous value, has just been put up at the Wade Gallery – and Adrian Bailey wants it bad enough that he’s hired you, the city’s greatest thieves, to bamboozle the bouncers, outsmart the gallery’s security systems and snatch the painting back!

A man in a navy suit faces a classical painting, his hands clasped behind his back, with a caption that reads, "This would look great in my apartment."

Jetpack Theatre Collective director Jim Fishwick has teamed up with SeeThrough Studios game designer Paul Sztajer to craft a complex escape room experience, and it’s one of the more pulse-pounding you’re likely to encounter. The setup is simple enough, with a safe room established in the gallery’s bathroom for you to retreat to and read up on the mission before crawling into the near pitch-black space ‘after hours’.

It’s the most fun you can have without spending a night in jail.

What this work has over your traditional escape room is engagement with performers – the security at the Wade Gallery are a constant threat, even if getting caught won’t end your game prematurely. They are the ultimate variable – while there are numerous paths to your prize and an established pattern for the guards to tread, your personal interactions with the guards have infinite possibility.

The genius of the game design is in its varying angles of approach, and the pressures of time. Our last grab at the painting was incredibly tense, and the sense of glory at our success palpable. And yet, there were questions unanswered in our run – other options that may have eased our efforts. The tech on hand is genuinely impressive, elevating the experience to endorphin-inducing heights.

The tech on hand is genuinely impressive, elevating the experience to endorphin-inducing heights.

It’s all beautifully designed by Aleisa Jelbart and provides a grand opportunity to showcase artworks by Sztajer and his peers, which adorn the walls of the gallery (and, in some cases, play a part in the heist). Bryce Halliday’s soundtrack makes you feel like you’re in Ocean’s Eleven, and it’s thrilling.

The crime of the century is yours to commit. All it takes is a few friends, a spare hour, and nerves of steel. It’s the most fun you can have without spending a night in jail.

Art Heist runs until Sunday July 30 at 404 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill. More details available at Jetpack’s website.