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Steel Magnolias: Theatre play in Northampton raises awareness and funds for Diabetes UK

Psychologist and broadcaster, Audrey Tang, is directing, producing and starring in the play Steel Magnolias at Duston Community Centre, Northampton on the 21st and 22nd of October. The event is raising funds for Diabetes UK through ticket sales and a Just Giving page.

The play was written by American playwright, Robert Harling, in 1987 and adapted into an iconic film in 1989. It tells the story of a group of women in Louisiana who share family and friendship bonds and support each other through life’s ups and downs. The character of Shelby – played in the film by Julia Roberts – has type 1 diabetes.

Audrey Tang, who is starring as Shelby in the play, said:

“What I love about the show is that it was written in memory of Susan Harling, the sister of the playwright, who died in 1985 of complications related to her type 1 diabetes. It not only celebrates the power of friendships but at its heart reminds us to seize joy in every moment we are lucky to have.

“The film is faithful to the play, and all of those who laughed and cried at the wonderful performances of Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and Julia Roberts will know just what to expect.  And, of course, it addresses diabetes directly. In fact, it reminds people, through a moment in the show, of the signs and symptoms of hypos and where to seek more information.”

Audrey has a strong personal connection to diabetes, as her mother had type 1 having died of pneumonia. Her father lives with type 2 and has developed serious complications, losing his sight and also needing dialysis due to kidney disease. “It’s important to recognise that, thanks to research, technology and innovations in the field – through the work of Diabetes UK – what happens to Shelby (and what happened to Susan Harling) is now a far less common occurrence. However, we should keep reminding people that diabetes IS serious and all too often people dismiss it and attach stigmas to it.”

In the play, Shelby develops kidney disease after having a child and struggles with the condition and its impact on her health. "I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special" is one of her many memorable lines in the play.

Putting diabetes centre stage

It’s an emotional watch as Audrey explains: “What has been lovely in rehearsals is recognising week after week how beautiful the writing is and its power to move us, even though we know what happens! One of the cast members lives with type 1 diabetes, and our singer lost her aunt in similar circumstances to my mum; others have also been touched by diabetes, so we all want to raise awareness.”

Pete Shorrick, Diabetes UK Midlands and East Regional Head said, “Community theatre is a fantastic way to make diabetes more visible and to open conversations about its impact on people living with it, their families and friends. We’re really grateful that Audrey chose this play and our charity to highlight the condition. Thankfully a lot has changed since the 1980s.”

Audrey is a writer, broadcaster, psychologist and former teacher. She has taken part in Swim22 and the One Million Step Challenge to raise funds for Diabetes UK this year as well as supporting other fundraisers and discussing diabetes in her podcasts.

To get a ticket for Steel Magnolias or give a donation go to:;

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