Veteran actress Patricia Hodge blames stage musicals for dumbing down Brits' theatre knowledge and making it harder for playwrights to pen hit shows.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard hit headlines earlier this month (Feb15) after revealing he now has to write his plays in a more simple form to avoid audiences missing the message.

He fears the modern theatre-goer is not as intelligent as those from previous generations, and now Hodge has spoken out to back his remarks - and she places the blame firmly on West End 'jukebox' musicals such as Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You.

Hodge tells The Stage, "What are we doing? They're putting musicals into playhouses. People's attention spans are not the same. They're not being cultivated into the language (of theatre) in the way that we once were. And so they don't hear."

Fellow stage star and Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Dame Janet Suzman echoed Hodge's comments, adding, "People don't understand literary and historical references any more. People's education is not as wide - except in specialist subjects. As a general rule, people's ability to access their own literary past is minimal."