'We spend our lives longing to be in the spotlight. At last I am, and it's all rather nerve-wracking.' Clare Bayley, erstwhile theatre critic on these pages, has switched sides with her play Northern Lights (below) which opens next week.

'Understandably, everyone wants to know what it's about. I spent a year writing it and suddenly I have either to come up with a 30-second summary or to boil it down to a single issue. I can't'

It's a familiar problem. Explaining that King Lear is about someone unfairly dividing up his land between his children is a little beside the point. Bayley baulks at the comparison. 'It's easier to say what it's not about. It's set in motorway cafes on the way to Scotland. There's a girl whose sister committed suicide off Archway bridge but it's not a gloomy play about what happens to women in their 30s. Nor is it just about a woman committing suicide. That's just the beginning. I hope it's not 'worthy'. It's the story of a strange encounter between a garrulous young woman and an inadequate lorry driver - and it's absolutely not based on me.'

A reading by the Soho Theatre company 'made me totally aware of everything that was wrong with it'. Together with director Shabnam Shabazi she has reworked it, and is thrilled by the casting. 'I've had that feeling where they come to your favourite moment and do it wonderfully. I can't wait to write a new one.'

'Northern Lights' opens at the New Grove Theatre on 11 Oct (071-383 0925)

(Photograph omitted)

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