Review: The Origin of Carmen Power, Southbank Centre
3.0Overall Score

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The thought of facing cancer treatment is an insurmountable feat to any person until it is contextualised through teddy bears and unicorns. The Origin of Carmen Power is an interactive online story about surviving cancer told through pop-art objects in a child’s bedroom. Carmen Power and her trusty sidekick Toby Peach help you navigate Carmen’s memories while she asserts herself as a real life superhero.

The animation is smooth and it’s hard not to smile as a ‘Unicorn Button’ pops up on the screen when you need a break from the action. Scenes are broken down into Carmen’s things which you click to find. It’s an accessible format built for children with surprisingly cheerful features for the adults who will inevitably experience it. With bright, bubbly animation, we follow Carmen’s journey through her treatment and recovery from brain cancer. The Origin of Carmen Power breezes through extremely difficult subject matter and the most impactful part is the sheer amount of positivity which has been carefully packed into it.

Difficult conversations between our protagonists take place with sock monkeys and beanie babies propped up in the background. Carmen’s initial admission to hospital is told through shadow puppets and her radiotherapy takes place in a stop-motion Lego hospital with adorably sized accompanying pieces. The monsters that Carmen Power must defeat are all driven from the struggles she faced during her treatment. There’s ‘The Itcher’ who makes her want to wriggle during radiotherapy, and a geometric cat puppet named ‘Scaredy Cat’ who represents fear. With all these challenges ahead of her, Carmen teaches us that sometimes it is okay to be scared. Carmen converts her milestones into real life superpowers. She turns struggle into strength. Her radiotherapy mould becomes her superhero mask and she drags around a friendly, glitter filled IV bag during her chemotherapy.

In the face of adversity, I’m sure we all know how quickly children can bounce back and Carmen is no exception. As she faces hair loss with a charming ‘Hat Dance’ or an ambulance journey lined with teddy bears, we are met with her lessons in coping. We are taught not to label someone as ‘strong’ just for having cancer. Carmen asserts, “We’re not brave, we just got on with it.” She tells her story ever so organically, ensuring we understand that she does not want to be known for her struggle, but for the brilliant person she is behind it. Carmen Power is a powerful dive into a child’s lessons in resilience, with much needed sparkle along the way.

‘The Origin of Carmen Power’ is available online until the 17th January. For more information and tickets, see Southbank Centre’s website.