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Photo credit Illegal Entry, Alchemy Festival 2024

Review: Illegal Entry at the Alchemy Festival 

By Nimra Amir, April 7 2024—

This March 25, attendees of the Alchemy Festival of Student Work were treated to an emotionally charged performance of Illegal Entry at the Reeve Theatre which courageously tackled head on the societal misconceptions surrounding youth offenders during its thrilling exploration of self-discovery.

Illegal Entry, first penned in 1999 by Albertan playwright Clem Martini, follows group leader Garland (Omer Badri), free soul Jim (Angad Singh) and calculated friend Stuart (Haider Haider) in their escape from a group home for young offenders with noble aspirations of eventually reaching the west coast of Canada where they will finally have true freedom. To fund their journey, the teenagers decide to burglarize houses. However, the plan quickly spirals when the teenagers find themselves locked in some random garage during their very first break-in.

What happens when teengers get stuck together besides the obvious brawl or the collective disdain of Taylor Swift? Well, seemingly for the first time, the teenagers — and subsequently, the audience — are forced to reflect on the harsh path that these troubled youth have been forced to take in hopes of just surviving until the next day. 

There is no doubt that there is the popular stereotypical idea of the average criminal, regardless of their age, as violent outcasts who ultimately chose the lifestyle they have. Yet as it is clearly depicted through the teenagers in Illegal Entry — who embody a more multifaceted nature — these youth offenders are not just criminals but people, like us, who grapple with the mistakes of their past while they hope for the chance at some better future.

“When we talk about youth offenders, the talk seems very uninformed,” said Martini. “People speak about them as if they were aliens from another planet, but these are kids that we all know. There are reasons why they do what they do.”

While society is rather quick to condemn youth offenders, the authentic portrayal of Garland, Jim and Stuart by the cast, each in their own distinct ways, urges the audience to look beyond the surface to those who are routinely dismissed by their stereotypical representation as more complex people — both damaged and resilient, angry and perceptive.

Now over two decades after its inception, with concerns over youth offenders still making headlines, this performance of Illegal Entry that serves to humanise youth offenders through its personable characters remains as relevant as ever. Especially when we consider that youth offenders, like the teenagers in Illegal Entry, are often faced with challenges like having a poor family life and being part of a vulnerable community, like the LGBTQIA+ community, which can be exacerbated by issues regarding mental health and substance abuse.

Trapped in the garage, the teenagers are each forced towards self-discovery that touches on these heavy topics, which mirrors the struggles of countless marginalized youth in Canada today. With comedic delivery and poignant monologues by the cast, the play leaves a lasting impression on audiences and their societal perceptions.

To buy tickets for the Alchemy Festival of Student Work, which runs from March 21 to April 7, you can visit their website.

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