Tuesday, 2 February 2010

DREAM JOB (Peter Whitehead, 1986)

'An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drama, a nightwalk at noon through a parade of distressed Coventries, a suffocating headlock of unmedicated schlock.' Iain Sinclair

Peter Whitehead disowns all praise and all criticisms. He disqualifies even the most strenuously delicate synopsis as wide of the mark. So even the cursory one-line breakdown that follows may be incorrect, but damn it, the author is wrong: Terry Hall does star as a young Midlands teacher, and his dream life interferes with reality. And the film was titled Son of the Speedway in America, and it was titled Grue Trit in France, and Introspection in Canada, and The Substitute in Australia, and Keeping An Eye On Nothing when it appeared on video in the UK. These are facts, supported scrupulously by the many internets that care.

Quoting extensively from the script then:

Continuation of monologue, Scene 5: I walk into the classroom, second floor of a prefabricated hut. The class are in the middle of a test. I take off my hat, coat and cycling gear and when they're done I introduce myself as Mr S, which is the name of one of the teachers that taught me. I decide to start a six-a-side football tournament, so I get some chalk to keep score and a whistle to referee, and call for two teams. They pick their own names. Hillsy's New Sailors win the first game 6-1, the goals initially being sofas (which the goalkeeper for Hunter Toner, Mimi, is very confused by when lying on the sofa full-length doesn't prevent the first two goals), and I referee fairly and well, except for when I place the chalk in my mouth, thinking it is the whistle. I find I may also need an assistant, as each moment the cataloguing of details I need to mark on the board seems to grow- first just the goals, then the goalscorers, then the yelow cards, then the number of fouls, then the number of house points I'l give for good play, then the number I'll give for fair play. All are marked with what is now a small piece of wet, chalky rubble.

Mr S's first name is Terry, just like the actor that plays him. This always creates a frisson of danger, as if events on screen could be real. Other moments that break through the drama include Terry humming along to a song on his walkman that sounds very much like 'Man at C&A' by The Specials.

Continuation of monologue, Scene 9: Halfway through the game, the goals become car boots and the goalkeepers decide to sit inside them, like machine-gunners in bunkers. Every time someone scores, I ask them their name. A girl who slams home a consolation rebound for Hunter Toner looks remarkably like Leslie, a boy I went to school with. Other kids clearly are ones I went to school with, preserved at fourteen: Bunto, Hillsy, Crossy. Bunto wants to play in the second game, despite having an ankle in plaster. He is not changed into his kit, but believes he'll be able to play: He just needs to wear a big boot or motorbike crash helmet over his foot. Wanting to ingratiate myself with him, as I might have done at school, I concede to his request, but I suggest he play in goal. He tells me he'll be fine. Hillsy, now apparently my age, and wearing a great three-piece suit with overcoat, asks me why he still feels like a tramp next to me.

Terry's father was a speedway rider. We know this because of the way he fondles the photograph of a man on a bike. Terry's father is dead. We know this because of the way Terry fondles the photograph of a man on a bike. Speculation: Memories of watching his father become an obsession, initiated by a child who bears a startling resemblance to a young Terry. The more mundane his day, the narrative seems to suggest, the more his memory life interferes.

Meanwhile, the kids are forming into teams for the second game. To my left, there appears to be nine kids, and to my right, many many more. I tell them both that I want only six on each side. The group to my right- three older girls and a gaggle of smaller kids- don't budge, and the older girls cross their arms. I approach one, becoming strangely angry, and wave an imaginary yellow card over her head. Only six, I tell her. She protests, telling me that they all look after each other out of school, and do everything together. I feel lonely, lacking a group. Then Ms Golden turns up, a popular young teacher. I become aware that she is my wife.

Ms Golden (Jenny Seagrove) is not Terry's wife, but he believes so. She is kind and concerned, and takes the approach sympathetically. She tries to help Terry secretly, without bringing attention to his problems. On another occasion, over coffee, Terry tells her about how he has been buying extra lamps for his bedroom because the lighting in his dreams is too dim, too musty, he can't quite see everything and everyone that is there. She indulges him. We hope they will develop a relationship.

She sits down to watch us. I am aware of my lack of patience with this lot, but can't stop. I ask them if they really want to play this game, and if not, then what would they prefer to do? Mr S, I hear a voice behind me say. Ms Golden puts her hand on my shoulder. Why don't you take a break she says. I give her a look, before turning and walking into the gym's main room. I look up and see the bikes, sliding round the corners. There is no noise in the room, just the bikes silently running in an endless circle at full pelt.

Dream Job Directed by Peter Whitehead Written by Peter Whitehead, Sylvie Host Produced by Tom Witness Starring Terry Hall, Jenny Seagrove ITC Entertainment/Samuel Goldwyn Films Release Date UK: Nov 1986 US:N/A Tagline: 'Terry got a Dream Job, but now he's dreaming on the job!'

1 comment:

  1. Find the real Peter Whitehead here: http://www.peterwhitehead.net/