I have just been involved in a robbery. Heist Live gives you the chance to live a life of crime for one night. Your accomplices can get you in and they can get you out, but for the planning and execution – you’re on your own. You and a team of up to 7 other people. I’ve spent the evening creeping around darkened corridors and staircases, crawling around the floor, evading CCTV cameras and hiding from roaming security guards. With hearts pounding and adrenaline coursing through veins, we pulled off our Heist.
We begin in an innocuous office lobby in Marylebone – we’re given lanyards (we are now ’employees’ of Mr Spotless Cleaning Company) and taken up to the bar where there are lockers for bags and coats and we meet One-Step, a dodgy dealer type who sorts us out with drinks (the bar is cash only but absurdly cheap for London) and gives each of us a codename: Detention (myself), Seaweed, Log Flume, Placemat, Peanut, Towers, Mars Bar and The Colonel.
We’re then taken in to meet Doyle who guides us through our task over a hand of poker: what we’re there to steal and where to find it. We’re then taken to break into the neighbouring building and meet AJ who has been working as a cleaner, so has gained a bit of inside knowledge to start us off – “if you get caught by security, remember that you’re a cleaner. Innocent people don’t run.” But it’s up to us to find the resources to aid ourselves (and there’s nothing to stop you bringing in a few things yourself, within reason – a torch and a pen come in very handy – but beyond that, most of the stuff that you’ll actually need is in the building for you to find). This is where the boundaries begin to blur between performance and live gaming. There are various tasks we have to complete in a set order so that we can obtain floor plans, get codes, disable CCTV hard drives and unlock rooms. Without being caught. This is possibly the most epic game of hide and seek I’ve ever played.
There is a huge amount of teamwork required – decisions to be made as to whether you stay as a group, split into pairs, where you establish a base (and when to move on) who goes out on what task, how they get there and how they get back. The creators have designed 17 possible permutations of events so the outcome is based on the choices you make as you go along – and there’s no guarantee that you’ll succeed. There was a real heart-in-mouth moment after one little foray – voices crackled through one walkie-talkie (designated for listening to the security guards): “hey, did you leave this door open?” / “No…..” – we soon learnt our lesson!
Communication between the group is paramount and success rides on how well you divvy up the tasks. With logistics so critical, not everyone can steal the object, but they can help play a part in locating it, accessing it, creating diversions, being on lookout etc. But even if you do find it, that’s not the end of the story – we chose our route out but it seems there may have been another option with a different outcome. But we got out without being caught. I was further from the main action, but settled into the role I was given (which aside from scouring rooms was pretty important) and having completed a few other minor tasks, it seems the work was fairly evenly spread between us. But I found myself wishing I’d done a little more than sit staring at CCTV screens and perhaps a bit more scrabbling around the floor and diving under tables like a nutcase. On the way home I started to think up all sorts of things we could’ve done.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat. Now, how to steal a ticket…..
Heist Live is on until Saturday 29th March 2014 at Marylebone Gardens, 35 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4QA. This event is now sold out but a small number of returns may be available on certain dates. All participants must be 18 or over. For tickets and more information go to http://heistlive.com/