I’m on the train home after, Trials of Faith, the Coventry University show. Tonight was its night. I’m fairly tired but mostly just emotionally drained. I worked with 34 people devising a show and in the 10 days spent together we barely exchanged a non-show related word. Although I couldn’t do late nights in the rehearsal room I was strongly committed to the show and did a good deal of homework on it. Then it gets its single performance, so it gets cut down before it has a chance to grow, much less mature. Due to various circumstances no one I know well sees it, so there is no calibrated feedback. For lecturers these shows are so inextricably linked with the student’s education and assessment they are rarely discussed with me a works of art. Suddenly it’s over and instead of enjoying a few social moments with the cast I’m hustling to complete my role. The ensemble I have come to cherish as a team has to be divided by marks. It all suddenly seems heartless and cold. It’s a lonely journey home on a Friday night through the revelry.
Marking creative work – particularly large group devised work – is always a headache. How do you compare a strong performer against a great ideas merchant? How do you value strong positive energy against coasting talent? Is a great stage moment worth more than solid backstage grafting? How is a technically sound but uninspiring actor measured against a flawed performer who is somehow compelling on stage? This is before you get into trying to recall whose idea was whose, who was cast by who.
Fortunately there are mark schemes to help you objectively and to crosscheck against gut-instincts. Ultimately these marking sessions always seem to resolve themselves moderately satisfactorily. There is a consistent inner-logic which means every decision could be defended if it had to be – though fortunately I’m usually long gone when the marks go out!
Looking back on my own experience participating in such a project as an undergraduate the marking all now makes sense. I understand now why we were put through the agony of peer assessment. I also now understand that there was no one extra thing that I could have done to convert a 69 into a 70 and a First. I now know doesn’t work like that.
There was originally talk of Acts of Faith being presented to the public in Coventry in the summer term. It would be great if that were to happen. It would be great to return to and polish the material. It would be great to work with that great bunch of people again.