Howard (Merton) and Penny (Katy Carmichael) have spent the evening together, but while they were sleeping a burglar broke in and stole Howard’s suit. It’s now well past midnight and Howard has to return home to his wife (played by Louisa Rix). But how can he do so when he’s dressed only in his underwear?
The Suit was originally broadcast in 1969 as part of Galton and Simpson Comedy (just released on DVD from Network) with Leslie Phillips and Jennie Linden as the lovers.
One of the interesting things about PM in G&S …. is the fact that the scripts were, obviously, written for a variety of performers. Some – like Hancock – were a pretty close fit for Merton’s persona, but others – like Phillips in The Suit – are much more of a stretch. Leslie Phillips always excelled at playing louche womanisers and it’s plain that (mixed metaphor ahoy) The Suit fitted him like a glove. It’s slightly harder to accept Paul Merton as a philander though, just as it wouldn’t have been a role which would have suited Tony Hancock.
When Penny mentions how she’d earlier viewed Howard (“suave, sophisticated, unruffled, debonair”) it’s something of a stretch to reconcile this mental image to Merton. But if we do accept him as a devastating babe magnet, once his trousers are removed he reverts to a much more frantic type. Penny, puffing on a cigarette, isn’t too much help – now viewing Howard with an air of disfavour. He’s had his way with her and now he’s attempting to make a speedy exit (or would do, if only he could find some clothes ….)
If we can swallow the central premise of a burglar stealing clothes (true, he does also pinch a few reasonable trinkets, like a watch and a ring), then there’s a decent farce at work here. And the way that the suit makes a late reappearance, to ensure that Howard receives his well-due comeuppance, is a nice moment.
Carmichael is once again excellent (she’d also played Sandra in The Clerical Error). After Howard is stripped to his underwear he’s also reduced in stature – which allows Penny to take the dominant role. And it’s Carmichael who really drives the episode along, partly because Merton seems a little adrift, but also because Howard’s written as a rather ineffectual character.
The Suit may not be top-notch G&S, but Leslie Phillips was still able to make the most of the material back in 1969. Paul Merton wasn’t as successful, but there’s still some laughs to be had along the way.