GETTING BETTER SLOWLY – the inspiring true story of one man’s journey to overcome being paralysed

getting better slowlyThe inspiring true story of one man’s two and half year journey to recovery after Guillain-Barré Syndrome paralysed him.

At the age of 26, in the space of three weeks, Adam Pownall went from being a fit and healthy dancer and performer to a paralysed man unable to blink unaided. Getting Better Slowly is the story of his two and half year battle back to health, from learning to walk and talk again to the movement classes that kept him going to the first time he managed to play football again. Through speech, movement, sound and verbatim text taken from interviews with Adam and his family, the show follows him from diagnosis to rehabilitation, capturing his highs and lows to create an inspirational piece that asks the audience how they might deal with an unexpected illness or accident.

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the first diagnosis of the disease by Doctors Georges Guillain and Jean Alexandre Barré. The condition, in which the immune system damages the nerve cells causing muscle weakness and paralysis, has no known cause, though it is thought to be triggered by an infection or virus. It affects one in 100,000 people, and there has recently been an increase in cases in countries that have experienced Zika virus outbreaks.

Following his rehabilitation, Adam returned to work in the arts. In 2014 he won the Olwen Wymark Award for supporting New Writing within Theatre for the Writer’s Guild for his work in opening and running Create Theatre in Mansfield, and he recently become Artistic Director of Lincoln Drill Hall after being Programme Co-ordinator at Derby Theatre. Getting Better Slowly is his first performance role since his illness was diagnosed in 2009. He said, “Prior to March 2009 I was always the type to describe myself as a positive person. However, it isn’t until you are dealt a life-changing situation you are truly tested and you have to summon the strength to find real positivity.

“I woke up one morning with what felt like a hangover, and my feet were cold… but they never warmed up. I was in hospital for a total of six months, three in a rehabilitation ward going through countless physiotherapy sessions, all of which causing excruciating pain due to my nervous system being messed up. With support of the hospital physio team I used dance to aid my recovery, leaving the hospital every Tuesday to attend a dance class with friends, at first in a wheelchair then using walking aides when my movement got better. There were obviously days where I wanted to give in, I struggled with bouts of depression due to being lonely, feeling like a failure when I couldn’t take more than five steps unaided. I was tired, chronically tired. But I’m pleased to say that through my positivity and determination I have made an almost full recovery.

“I regularly support GAIN Charity, I go and visit any current sufferers to offer them my story as a way of hope and positivity to help them in their ordeal, and Getting Better Slowly is part of this venture to create awareness and inspire hope.”

GAIN (Guillain-Barré & Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies) Charity is the official charity for GBS. For more information please visit

Movement director Marc Brew has been working as a dancer, choreographer and director for more than 20 years in the UK and abroad. In 2014 Marc was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Performance (Individual) at the prestigious Isadora Duncan Awards for his solo piece Remember When. In 2015, his autobiographical piece For Now, I am… explored what it is to be broken and reborn, the first work he has made that engages directly with his body since a head-on car crash in 1997 left him with a spinal cord injury. He is currently Guest Artistic Director at AXIS Dance Company and Associate Artistic Director at Ballet Cymru.

Associate Choreographer Kimberley Harvey has her own dance company Subtle Kraft Co, and is a Candoco Artist, including performing in the 2012 Paralympic Closing Ceremony.

Director Tilly Branson’s past work includes Acting Alone (International tour 2015-16), Man to Man (Mercury Theatre Colchester 2013 and Park Theatre London 2014) and Entertaining Angels (New Perspectives, rural tour 2013). For the past four years she has been working on an AHRC funded practice-based PhD about rural touring.

Writer Nick Wood’s commissions include Radio 4, Derby Theatre, Thalia Theatre Hamburg, Action Transport, Theatr Iolo, Hans Otto Potsdam, RSC, and Eastern Angles. He recently returned to acting touring his own play A Girl With A Book. His adaptation of The Underground Man opens at Nottingham Playhouse on the same night as Getting Better Slowly.

Tour dates
22 – 23 Sept
Lincoln Drill Hall
Free School Ln, Lincoln LN2 1EY
7.30pm | £12 (£10 concs, £8 students) | 01522 873894

1 Oct
The Civic, Barnsley (Part of New Writing Weekend)
Hanson St, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2HZ
7.30pm | £10 (£8 concs) | 01226 327000

2 – 3 Oct
New Diorama, London
15-16 Triton Street, Regents Place, London, NW1 3BF, London NW1 3BF
7.30pm | £12 – £10 | 020 7383 9034

12 Oct
South Holland Centre, Spalding
23 Market Place, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE11 1SS
7.30pm | £10 (£7.50 U26s) | 01775 764777

14 – 15 Oct
Old Library, Mansfield
Leeming Street, Mansfield NG18 1NG
Times and price tbc
Tickets through: | 01522 873894

22 Oct
Attenborough Arts, Leicester
University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 7HA
7pm | £8 (£5 concs) | 0116 252 2455

3 Nov
Stockton ARC
Dovecot Street, Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1LL
7pm | Pay What You Decide | 01642 525 199

6 Nov
Square Chapel, Halifax
10 Square Road, Halifax HX1 1QG
7.30pm | £12 (£10 concs) | 01422 349422

15 Nov
Riverhead Theatre, Louth
Victoria Road, Louth, Lincolnshire LN11 0BX
7.30pm | £10 – £5 | 01507 600350

16 Nov
Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham
Saint Peter’s Hill, Grantham NG31 6PZ
7.30pm | £12 (£10 concs, £5 U25s) | 01476 406158

17 Nov
Stamford Arts Centre, Lincolnshire
27 Saint Mary’s Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2DL
7.30pm | £12 (£10 concs, £5 U25s) | 01780 763203

1 Dec
Deda, Derby
19 Chapel St, Derby DE1 3GU
7.30pm | £12 (£10 concs) | 01332 370 911

2 Dec
Nottingham Lakeside Arts
University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD
Times and prices TBC | 0115 846 777

15 Feb
Cast, Doncaster
Cast, Waterdale, Doncaster DN1 3BU
Times and prices TBC‎ | 01302 303 959

17 Feb
Harrogate Theatre
Oxford St, Harrogate HG1 1QF
Times and prices TBC | 01423 502 116

18 Feb
The Place, Bedford
Bradgate Rd, Bedford MK40 3DE
Times and prices TBC | 01234 354321

19 Feb
HUB at Slunglow, Leeds
Holbeck Underground Ballroom, 67-71 Bath Road, Holbeck, Leeds LS119UA
Times and prices TBC