Burlesque at escapeXperience – theatre review

My second Escape Room experience in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs was just as intriguing as the first I had back in June. I mentioned then that mind-bending activities like this are infectious and apropos of a glass of fine wine or a mouth-watering dessert, it is hard to stop at one.So, I was unashamedly excited to be at it again, figuring that my initial involvement would aid me on this occasion. How wrong was I?

I found the cryptic clues just as challenging. The designers of the puzzles are clearly devious individuals intent on not making it too easy for those taking part. For the uninitiated, a group of up to six people (friends, family, work colleagues, you name it) are locked in a room and have to think their way out in an hour. That requires working through the conundrums, one by one. These are generally, but not exclusively, linked to a series of key and combination locks. When those taking part get stuck, as is all but inevitable, Big Brother is watching and will provide a hint to help further their cause. In other words, they can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear them, unless they want us to.

burlesque-01The first escapeXperience room to test my group four months ago was called Amnesia. This second room, which has just been completed, is known as Burlesque and adds an innovative new element, namely immersive theatre. It is the 1920s, so patrons about to enter a Burlesque Club (think feathers and boas) are encouraged to dress up accordingly and get into the spirit of the occasion. Unfortunately, there has been a series of murders inside the club and while detectives are on the case, you have been seconded to assist. Apparently there is evidence throughout the room and it is now a case of working collectively to uncover the culprit of these dastardly deeds.

The accoutrements in the club may hold the secrets. They could be hidden or in plain view. The trick is to follow a path and work out whether that will lead somewhere or if it is merely a red herring. The beauty of an escape room is that it is all about participants having fun and using their minds. The power of observation is vitally important. Without, in any way, wishing to spoil the experience, one puzzle in particular was spectacular because it came as such a surprise, admittedly after we had struggled a bit. When we finally cracked that code, I felt live “high fiving” everyone and telling all and sundry we had done it.

Suffice to say, solving it gave us renewed momentum to tackle the next brainteaser and the one after and the one after that. Our escape room adventure took place at a facility opened earlier this year, known as escapeXperience (www.escapexperience.com.au). Owners Joss and Jackie Milner, and Mark and Glenda Plavin, created the rooms in conjunction with noted puzzle designers Owen Spear and Ali Cheetham, who own Escape Room Melbourne (www.escaperoom.com.au). The concept originated in Asia and Eastern Europe more than a decade ago and has since spread. It is not hard to see why.

So, if you are after something that takes you outside your comfort zone and keeps you engaged and entertained throughout, then you will find satisfaction being locked in an escape room. Don’t fret though because it isn’t claustrophobic and somebody is observing you at all times. Note: You can find escapeXperience on Facebook. Search for escapeXperience, where the central letter “e” is spelt just once.

Alex First