I don’t know about you but, during the pandemic, I seem to be spending – oooh, let me see – about 95% of my waking hours looking at a screen. When I’m not working to bring you the very best LGBTQ+ content on the planet, I’m checking out our social channels or watching the TV. I have no doubt that, as we speak, my optician is excitedly leafing through a luxury Caribbean cruise brochure based solely on her income from treating my fading vision.
When my ageing eyes can’t take it any more and I’m sick of my own company, I’m a sucker for a radio play. I luxuriate in the back catalogue from Radios 4 and 4 Extra on BBC Sounds and firmly adhere to the old cliché that the pictures in your head are every bit as vivid as those on your swanky 4K telly.
It was therefore with much joy and anticipation that I received an email from writer Samantha Grierson Schwartz attaching a link to her new audio drama Crocodile.
Crocodile is the story – or, at least, a snapshot in the life – of the eponymous heroine, played by friend of OutNewsGlobal Heather Peace. I chose to ignore the press release before pressing play, reasoning that – whatever it was about – the audience should be able to catch on without the help of explanatory notes.
It is a tribute to Peace’s skill that, within moments, it was quite clear that we were dealing with a neurodivergent character. I’m no actor, but I guess that it’s easier for an actor to express “difference” in a visual medium where the audience has the benefit of pictures as well as sound. In an audio drama, the actor has to rely solely on her voice and delivery and there is no doubt that Peace pulled it off.
Crocodile has a degree, a job which she hates and – in common with a lot of autistic people – quite a few quirks. The writer treats Crocodile’s idiosyncrasies with sensitivity, humour and an admirable lightness of touch. Flashbacks to her childhood, where the eight year old Crocodile is portrayed by the quite brilliant Mia Wray, reveal that she endured a tough – some might say abusive – upbringing.
Crocodile’s bestie is the fast-talking Beau (Sherise Blackman) who introduces Crocodile to decorator Syd (Gurkiran Kaur) and what ensues is standard rom-com fare with a couple of big differences. You already know about Crocodile’s neurodiversity, but where the play differs significantly from the mainstream is that all three female characters are bisexual.
I loved the fact that this was not an issue: no conversations about victimhood, oppression or biphobia, and thankfully no tiresome, childish debates about the difference between pan and bi (yawn, and I’m bi myself); instead, the characters’ sexuality emerges as they reference past relationships in exactly the same way as three heterosexual lead characters might chat about former boyfriends.
One thing didn’t ring true for me: Crocodile was so clearly autistic from the outset that, when she mentions that it’s only been 18 months since her official diagnosis, I found my credulity stretched to its limits. Surely someone – a teacher perhaps – would have noticed something before now (FFS, as a child Crocodile keeps a radish as a pet and reads a whole encyclopaedia in alphabetical order!) but then I learned a couple of salient facts: the writer was herself not diagnosed with autism until 2018, well into her adult life and, further, autism among girls is understood far less than it is among their male counterparts. Shows what I know.
With a running time of just under an hour, Crocodile is at once uplifting and though-provoking. I think you’ll love it.
Listen to Crocodile on Spotify here or find it on iTunes, Amazon Music or Google Podcasts.