The Other Department

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

On Film: Hugh is loitering on a street corner, looking hard. He looks around him, and then enters one of those Pay-Az-U-Krapp public lavatories: cut inside to the interior of a dingy office, which, in a tardis sort of fashion, is larger than it ought to be. Hugh looks round him and then approaches a desk, behind which Stephen is being measured up by a tailor.

Stephen Alan, dear boy, glad you could make it. Shan't keep you a moment.

Hugh No problem.

Tailor Three or four buttons on the cuff, sir?

Stephen Oh, I'm not sure. What do you think, Alan?

Hugh (Shrugs) Three's plenty.

Stephen You think?

Hugh The lighter the cuff, the faster you move.

Tailor Four is normal nowadays, sir.

Stephen Hm. Tell you what, three on the left, four on the right.

Tailor Very good, sir. (Jots in his notebook)

Stephen Now, I dare say you'll be wondering why I asked you here.

Tailor Well I assumed you wanted a suit made.

Stephen Hm. Alan, do you know why I asked you here?

Hugh Nope.

Stephen Not even the teensiest hint of a suspicion?

Hugh None at all.

Stephen Good. That's why I asked for you. That's why I asked for you. Thats why I asked for you.

Hugh I don't follow.

Stephen You're an outsider, Alan, and that means I can trust you.

Tailor Excuse me, sir. Trousers.

Stephen Trousers? Oh yes, I think so. Got to have trousers. Look a complete arse without trousers.

Tailor Yes, sir. Did you envisage zip or button fly?

Stephen Hoo, tricky. Views, Alan?

Hugh Buttons are a dangerous luxury in my line of work. Personally, I'm a velcro man.

Stephen Really? Bit noisy, isn't it?

Hugh Noisy but fast. By the time they've heard your flies, it's a lifetime too late.

Stephen Right, velcro it is. Now Alan, I have a little theory that I'd like you to hear.

Hugh I'm listening.

Stephen The Department is rotten. Rotten to the core. Am I ringing any bells with you?

Hugh You're saying the Department is rotten?

Stephen It's a theory, Alan. Just a theory. Run with me, and let's see how it plays.

Hugh K.

Tailor One other thing, sir?

Stephen Yes?

Tailor Which side do you dress?

Stephen Er, nearest the window usually. Now Alan, I want you to cast your mind back to Berlin. Hugh looks grim.

Stephen Problem?

Hugh You told me to draw a line after Berlin. Walk away and forget, you said.

Stephen Of course. You had to get out in rather a hurry, didn't you?

Hugh I can't remember.

Tailor Ticket pocket, sir?

Stephen Hm?

Tailor On the waistcoat.

Stephen Ticket pocket, ticket pocket, ticket pocket. I think not. Hermoine and I don't seem to get out to the theatre as much as we used to these days. Seems a bit of a waste.

Hugh Look, if you've hauled me all the way out here ...

Stephen Calm yourself, Alan. There's reason in my madness. Now tell me. What do you know of Carl Albert Beiderbeck?

Hugh Beiderbeck. 5'11". Blue build, medium eyes. Father was a Romanian circus acrobat, did some courier work for the Soviets in the late fifties. Mother was a small business adviser for the Midland Bank in Altrincham. Small arms, big feet. Fluent at the violin. Distinguishing marks, a small mole in his garden.

Stephen Ha. I'm impressed Alan.

Hugh I've seen the file.

Stephen Well then, you're one of the few people in the Department who has.

Hugh Meaning?

Stephen Meaning you're one of the few people in the Department who has.

Hugh I see.

Stephen The Beiderbeck file went walkies six weeks ago. Hasn't been seen since.

Hugh I see. Hence your rotten apple theory.

Stephen Noooo. Hence my rotten Department theory. I don't really have a rotten apple theory.

Hugh Who drew the file last?

Stephen That is what you're going to find out.

Tailor Begging your pardon, sir ...

Stephen Oh no. You're not going to ask about turn-ups are you?

Tailor No sir. About the Beiderbeck file.

Stephen Yes?

Tailor I was the last person to draw the file.

Hugh You?

Stephen Well I'll be rogered with a stiff wire brush ...

Tailor Mr Beiderbeck wanted a suit made. Said he was going on a trip, and where he was headed, no one knew how to cut cloth properly. He couldn't come in for a fitting, so I had to get his measurements from the file.

Stephen Alan, are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Hugh No.

Stephen Ah.

Hugh What sort of suit did Beiderbeck order from you?

Tailor Three piece houndstooth worsted, zip fly, four button cuffs.

Stephen Ticket pocket?

Tailor Oh yes, sir. Mr Beiderbeck was a great one for the theatre.

Stephen Was he? Was he by didgery-handpoo?

Tailor Very flamboyant gentleman, Mr Beiderbeck. I often thought he'd have done well on the stage himself.

Stephen You know what this means, don't you Alan?

Hugh Berlin, sir?

Stephen Precisely. We have to get that file back.

Tailor Well I'll ask my wife to put it in a taxi, if you like sir?

Hugh There's a Lufthansa flight in an hour.

Stephen I'll ask Judy to book you on it.

Tailor Well we're only up in Finsbury Park, sir.

Stephen If that file should fall into the wrong hands ...

Tailor It's just sitting on the kitchen table ...

Hugh Or get tea spilt on it ...

Tailor Ah. Er ... Which side do you keep your penis, sir? Cut to next sketch incredibly quickly.

Vox Pop

Stephen My wife and I have been going to Provence for years. Well before it was fashionable. We like to think that we discovered it. The French were amazed when we pointed it out. They'd simply never noticed it.

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