Mental health is one of the toughest issues to discuss in the public sphere. You never want to come across as exploitative or salacious when covering it, but there is always the question of whether sensitising the issue is really the problem.
That is one of the issues faced by deVINE, the new play by the RECollective that debuted this week at Auckland's Basement Theatre.
The story of two sisters, Bobby and Blair, and their children who reunite at their family vineyard to deal with an impending crisis. Every conversation and action is darkened by the family secrets that loom over them, unspoken and rarely addressed but constantly there.
The reluctance to dive deeper into the mental health issues is a missed opportunity to really confront the issues, but the respectful nature of the plot is perhaps the easiest way for a society so unwilling to discuss these matters in the open to dip a toe into the subject.
The conflict around the unwillingness to discuss also allows the cast and script to shine.
The three actresses who make up the company - Cian Elyse White (800 Words), Romy Hooper and Esmee Myers - effortlessly move through the six characters which make up this play, with Hooper and White shining in particular as the feuding sisters.
Myers is left on her own for most of the play, but is commanding as matriarch Rose when the spotlight falls on her.
Though really, any problem that can be found in the play is nitpicking, trying to find cracks in an otherwise smooth, polished surface. Outside of a few clichéd lines (which, in hindsight, fit perfectly with the character delivering them), the script flows smoothly, guided by the actresses swift, seamless changes between their vastly different characters.
It seems the touch of guest director Morgana O'Reilly's past dealings with sparring families has aided the work immensely, making deVINE a challenging but wildly relatable family drama in the vein of August: Osage Country. The issues may be confronting to some, but that's nothing compared to how scarily accurate and human these characters are.
Where and When: Basement Theatre, Feb 7-11