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FISHCAT Elan Butler Interview

Elan Butler's FISHCAT is a tragi-comic coming-of-age tale, is centred around the challenges teenagers face in their fight to be heard and recognised. Tackling issues such as; loneliness, fractured relationships, parenthood and bullying, as well as illuminating the power of our imagination, hope and persistence for change.

After successful runs previously the show returns to stage at Nottingham Playhouse's Neville Studio space on Friday 30th September 2022. Ahead of the performance, I spoke with Elan to discover more about the piece.

Elan began by telling me a little bit more about FISHCAT, "Fishcat is a comedy-drama that focuses on Sarah, an introverted school girl growing up in  Birmingham. Without much hope for her future in the Midlands, we learn about her dreams of escaping and finding purpose in something other than this existence. Her biggest fear is emulating her mother who spots every childhood friend in the aisle of TKMAXX, or her dad who’s just…well, never there. Throughout the show we learn about Sarah's feelings towards her surroundings, watching her form an unlikely bond with her eccentric classmate, Gary, who’s mastered his own form of Karate (enter the dojo with caution). They both quickly learn from each other how to survive within the black sea of teenage hood. The show has love at its heart and pushes you to think about the people around you and what they may be going through."

For Elan the inspiration for the piece came during the pandemic, he explained to me "inspiration came from feeling really angry about the government's disregard for young people during the pandemic. I remember there being an outcry for funding within the creative sector as that image circulated about ‘Fatima getting a job in cyber’ or something like that. My school growing up didn’t have enough funding to even put on a play each year, so I think since then I’ve wanted to write something about the lack of care for young people and their choices within education. The pandemic smacked me in the face with a lot of time, so I did it. In the play this feeling is shown a lot through Sarah's outlook on the world and the lack of support for her. But I promise, it is also a comedy!"

The piece uses puppetry to further the feeling on the stage, Elan told me "Throughout the making of this show I’ve always wanted puppetry in it. I feel like Sarah is always  describing the world around her and to make that visual would enhance the audience's experience and improve the show as a whole. Thankfully, we are being directed by master of puppetry, Genevieve Sabherwal, who will help bring characters to life through transforming inanimate objects that encapsulate that person's aura. We also mention a dog in the play and we can’t risk using a real one, so it may just be a bag on a stick. We don’t know, we will find out in the rehearsal room!"

The show explores issues including growing up in a unforgivinly lonely world. I posed to Elan what he thought the impact of social media was on our lives "I think social media just continues to make us compare our lives to someone else’s in an unhealthy way. It's impossible not to consider your life inadequate to another’s when you see how good of a time they’re having and you’re just sitting alone in your room doing nothing. I think social media will continue to grow into shorter forms and frequently make people a success overnight. It will continue to allow anyone to hate on things and spew utter rubbish into the ether. I also think it will be a space for people to be themselves in the best way possible, people will have a place where they can be what they’re not confident to be in real life, something the character Sarah admires, which is reflected in the character of ‘Hope’ within Fishcat."

Who does Elan hope the target audience or the show is? "The show is about young people's relationship with the habitat around them so feel it’s right to single them out, young people, students in education, comedy lovers. I’ve loved seeing the reaction from people who aren’t regular theatre goers to Fishcat, I feel like it appeals to those who aren’t going to the National every week indulging in a deep play, the show is meant to make you feel good about yourself and hopeful for what the future may bring."

What does Elan hope an audience member will take away from seeing the show? "I think making anyone laugh is the best feeling in the world, so I hope people leave with a smile on their face, or believing like the comedic show they were sold wasn’t a false bit of advertisement! I also think it’s important that audiences see how much each character bottles feelings up, managing to hide them pretty well from one another and maybe considering that with the people in their own day to day life."

I posed the question I ask all my interviewees of 'what does theatre mean to you?', Elan said "Theatre to me is just great unpredictable stories unfolding live in front of you. It can be dance, performance art, whatever, as long as the story is something new, being done in a different way to usual, I’m invested. Theatre and performance is everything to me, it’s where I learn the most, feel the most, laugh the most, not so much cry the most. It’s just special to be in the same room as people all reacting differently to scenarios."

Our chat warpped up with Elan explaining why he thought anyone should come and see the show "It’s emerging actors, directors, writers, producers, mostly all coming from the Midlands. The play talks about topics like loneliness, fractured relationships, parenthood and bullying without being preachy! The cast and crew have worked exceptionally hard on the show and it would be great to have as big a turn out as possible. You won’t regret it!"

FISHCAT plays at Nottingham Playhouse's Neville Studio on Friday 30th September at 7.45pm. Tickets are available from You can find out more about Sober Riot from

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