From the 1870s to the mid 1990s, the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) in Pyrmont was a vital part of Sydney's economy. The expanding enterprise refined sugarcane, made building materials and at its height, distilled about a third of Australia's rum. Sold in 1995 to make way for residential development, all that remains of the refinery are three huge steel spheres mounted on pedestals in Pyrmont's Waterfront Park.
But playwright Alana Valentine knew that wasn't entirely true.
Dotted around Sydney are other remnants of the sugar factory – generations of workers who built their lives around CSR's industry. It's on this foundation that Valentine has crafted her latest work, The Sugar House, open Upstairs at Belvoir.
The play focuses on three women who have either worked in the refinery or have seen their hometown change as a result of its boom and bust. Delving into their complex histories, Valentine also examines the changing face of Sydney and asks a few pointy questions about what it's become. As Belvoir's Artistic Director Eamon Flack notes, the play is a gift to the city, but it also details the true cost of prosperity.
With Kris McQuade, Sacha Horler and Sheridan Harbridge heading up a cast of Belvoir stalwarts, The Sugar House promises a tough and winding account of family and the city. It might also provide a few answers about what exactly those giant balls in Waterfront Park were used for.