Anyone remember the occasion when Antony Sher was found wearing a five-year-old's pink dress and pigtails, sitting with legs splayed, touting a rifle and singing 'Georgie Best, Superstar/Walks like a woman and he wears a bra'? It was all the fault of Caryl Churchill (right). Hilarious, shocking and deeply moving, Cloud Nine (1979), was her first big hit, touring the country, playing two seasons at the Royal Court and then having a two-year run at New York's Lucille Lortel Theatre.

She once said that 'for years I thought of myself as a writer before I thought of myself as a woman' which may account for her continuing commitment to formal experimentation which underpins the dramatic and imaginative exploration of ideas in her work.

Sexual politics, however, has remained a constant theme, triumphantly expressed in Top Girls (1982), which made everyone realise that pigeonholing her as merely one of our best women playwrights was absurd. Its revival at the Court in 1991 gave everyone the chance to wonder anew at the sheer technical skill and emotional depth of the play. The final confrontation (played to devastating effect on both occasions by Deborah Findlay) was an astonishing display of emotion, profoundly political yet absolutely rooted in character.

Artists as diverse as Ian Spink, Judith Weir and James Macdonald have collaborated with her recently. Perhaps some of them will be with her tomorrow to celebrate. The occasion? Her birthday. May there be many more.

(Photograph omitted)