One glancing comment he made was about what some parts of the church call Worship Songs. He garnered some vitriol and outcry when he acutely described them as ‘drivel’. Lovers of this kind of church music were suitably outraged, responding in the Letters page.
In John’s most recent diary piece, he confessed a love of King Lear. He wrote of queuing for day seats at the National Theatre, to be rewarded with a front row view to see Simon Russell Beale in ‘as tremendous a performance as Warren Mitchell’s, years ago, at the Hackney Empire’. (It was a performance I missed; though I did see Mitchell’s earlier essay at the role in a Queensland Theatre Company production in Sydney 17 years earlier.)
In Pridmore’s diary piece he says, ‘Long ago I taught Lear at an international school in Tanzania. Most of the class - and a different nation was represented at each desk – had never read a Shakespeare play before, and, for some, this was the very first English literary text that they had looked at. But the old wizard had his way. Shakespeare’s “rough magic” worked, and all were swiftly under his spell.
‘The theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn recently claimed that Shakespeare is “one hundred times more relevant today than the Bible”. There are bits of the Bible of which that claim is clearly true – the Levitical ban on eating bats, and Paul’s weird views on women, for example.
‘But Sir Trevor overstates his case. Both Lear and the story of Jesus are Passion narratives. Both explore what it takes for us to live for each other. Both point to the possibility of redemption. Neither story is privileged over the other; for both are luminous with the truth at the heart of things.’
John has also written an address, which was planned for a public event in London. I don’t know if it was ever delivered. In it, he argues that the Church is more effective when it works ‘outside’ – and in this he looks at Lear on the heath and beyond – rather than ‘inside’ – those court structures, which crumble under the King’s daft plan to cut up his kingdom in response to a public love show.
Pridmore is now retired. Thank God he still speaks and writes in his still active Fool-like manner.