We no longer have any excuse for feeling, as Peter Brook puts it, that ‘a verse play is half-way between prose and opera, neither spoken nor sung, yet with a higher charge than prose – higher in content, higher somehow in moral value’ (the empty space, p. 48). But the wheel of critical opinion has turned sufficiently to allow us to look at verse drama dispassionately and Katharine J. Worth, in Revolutions in Modern English Drama (1972), is able (chapter IV) to remind us just how experimental T. S. Eliot was. We can now see that verse drama in the 1940s served a useful function: it assisted at the birth of poetic drama and we should appreciate this and that by claiming for itself a higher moral value than prose the verse drew attention not merely to the language of the play but to the fact that some plays do have a higher moral charge than others. The period of the 1940s is too often lightly dismissed in favour of the heady days of 1956. John Russell Taylor in Anger and After (1969), writes that Fry’s championship of verse in the theatre went more or less unsupported, and that the appeal of other verse drama was either merely modish or too parochial apart from those few dramatists who betook themselves to the radio. This is accurate but it is also grudging. The theatre of the 1940s had, appropriately, a talent to amuse which the theatre of the 1970s – when we are saturated with realism in the cinema and on television – might well return to, and its glories were not unappealing as Peter Brook reminds us:

… this was a theatre of colour and movement, of fine fabrics, of shadows, of eccentric, cascading words, of leaps of thought and of cunning machines, of lightness and of all forms of mystery and surprise – it was a theatre of a battered Europe that seemed to share one aim – a reaching back towards a memory of lost grace.

(the empty space, p. 43)