Before Sue Glover wrote Bondagers, books on the subject of female farm workers in the 19th century were pretty thin on the ground.

Once Glover's play charting six women's travails through the seasons became a hit in Ian Brown's original production for the Traverse Theatre in 1991, however, everything changed.

The play's emotional landscape and lyrical largesse tapped into something that audiences lapped up, and Brown's production was revived for bigger theatres and toured to Canada. Suddenly, there seemed to be a welter of literature on the subject, while the play was recently named as one of the 12 key Scottish plays written between 1970 and 2010.

Now, 23 years on from its premiere, and more than a decade since it was last produced on home soil, Bondagers comes home to roost in Lu Kemp's new production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Even with such an extended absence, Glover remains close to the play.

"It's difficult to get away from it," she says on a visit to Edinburgh. "It's always there. There have been productions abroad, you get e-mails from students doing design, or school teachers doing it with their pupils, so it becomes part of you. All your plays are part of you."

The roots of Bondagers date to Glover being told about the history of women who were exploited as cheap labour while trying to keep body, soul and family together. Having never heard of them, she looked into it, and originally planned to write the play as a two-hander before it blossomed into something bigger.

"Ian Brown said to me I had given him a very difficult play to direct," Glover remembers. "Apparently it is written in a lot of different styles, but they all seem to fit together to me, and I do not want to analyse or think about that too much, but I think it was just the landscape that started it, and it is very dangerous to begin with a landscape. It is usually a character or something of the story or an incident, but there was not anything except that I kept seeing these misty fields. A 40 or 50-acre field sounds enormous, and it was enormous then, although it is nothing now. I was on a car and a train in Poland recently, going past these vast swathes of fields that could have been somewhere in America, but these fields were new at that time.

"I believe they tried growing trees around the edges of the fields, and then realised it was not a good idea, partly because it would keep the sun off the fields. I loved all that stuff. I always have. Even as a kid I would see places being concreted over, and wonder how we would be able to grow our food."

Before Bondagers, there seemed to be few contemporary plays being written in Scotland with rural settings. Whether it was coincidence or there was something in the air, Glover's play seemed to open the door on other works that moved beyond the inner-city. Alastair Cording's stage adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbons' novel, Sunset Song, appeared the same year as Bondagers, while original works such as David Harrower's still startling Knives In Hens was a bigger breath of fresh air.

At one point, it seemed like the majority of new plays being produced by the Traverse were rural-based, including Glover's own play, Shetland Saga. This was something brought home by the new writing theatre's once annual Highland tour.

"I got the impression that if I had been writing about housing estates or factories or drugs, some theatres might have been much more interested in my work," Glover says. "All of my theatre plays are set on beaches or islands or the countryside, and audiences have always been very happy about that. Theatre admin departments were not, certainly not in the way they are now."

One of Glover's bete noirs is classical plays having some kind of concept imposed on them.

"They keep on trying to see the relevance of everything," she says, "but audiences will get the relevance of it. I do not want to see Shakespeare done in blazers with people carrying tennis rackets. Audiences are not so dim they can't see what a play is about."

Kemp's revival of Bondagers for the Royal Lyceum heralds a mini renaissance of Glover's work. A new production by Borderline Theatre Company of The Straw Chair is scheduled for 2015. Like Bondagers, it looks to history for inspiration, and looks at what happens when an Edinburgh minister and his wife arrive on 18th century St Kilda.

"It's set in the past," says Glover of the play she calls her favourite work, "but really it is a play about marriage. It is exciting, because they are going to open it in Orkney."

Glover's most recent full-length stage play was Marilyn, which imagined a meeting between Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret in a hotel room, and which was seen at the Citizens Theatre in 2011. Beyond that, Glover has two short plays on the go. The first is based around a couple living with lions, while the second is about an older couple facing up to their own mortality.

As with Bondagers, however, Glover is unwilling to impose a theme on her new works lest it get in the way of writing it. "I found out what Bondagers is about while I was writing it," she says. "It's about losing or spoiling the land. Young people are slightly horrified by the sexual politics in the play, because they are seeing it through modern eyes, but the energy of these women was amazing."

Bondagers, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, tomorrow to November 15.