Sir Tom Stoppard, considered by many to be Britain's greatest living playwright, says he is being forced to dumb down to that modern audiences understand his references. Stoppard, 77, said he had to change a scene in his latest play The Hard Problem three times between previous to make a joke more obvious.

Tom StoppardSir Tom Stoppard suggested he had dumbed down his latest play for modern audiences

"It's very rare to connect an audience except on a level which is lower than you would want to connect them on."

"You could raise it a notch and you might lose an eighth of them. It's to do with reference and allusion."

As for the aforementioned scene, Sir Tom, "So in the end, bit by bit, by preview four, the audience made the connection," he said. "And I must say that I was completely wrong [in assuming the audience would understand it] and I really resent it."

"In 1974 everybody in the audience knew who Goneril was and laughed," he recalled. "In about 1990 when the play was revived maybe half knew [who she was]."

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The Hard Problem has received middling reviews from critics, despite feverish anticipation. The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish called it a "major disappointment" while the Evening Standard's Henry Hitchens said it was "typically witty" and awarded four stars.

Stoppard's most celebrated plays remain Arcadia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, The Coast of Utopia and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. 

Stoppard was given a 'deadline' to complete The Hard Problem by Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre who was keen to direct a final production by the playwright before he left his role.

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