Published: Jinty 2 September 1978 – 13 January 1979
Artist: Phil Gascoine
Translations/reprints: Geen applaus voor Sandra [No Applause for Sandra] in: Groot Tina Zomerboek 1983-4)
In Inverglay, Scotland, Cherry Campbell dreams of going on stage and has already taught herself several song-and-dance numbers. One day Cherry’s Aunt Margot from England comes to visit. She’s a cunning, manipulative woman out to bamboozle her naïve sister out of priceless family heirlooms. But there’s worse. She also gets her hands on Cherry, saying she will develop Cherry’s talent at their theatre business, Theatre Rose.
The reality is, Aunt Margot only wants Cherry as unpaid help, a slave to the whole family on the barge, as her son (Marvin) and daughter (Michelle) are too selfish and lazy to help out. Uncle Bernard treats Cherry slightly better. He seems to have a soft spot for her, but he sure knows how to act sweet and kind when it comes to fooling her, and for the most part he exploits her as much as the rest of the family.
Cherry is shocked to see the reality of Theatre Rose. It’s a barge and the stage is one the family set up and take down wherever they stop. It’s not what she expected and she wonders if it really will help her dreams of making it on stage. Moreover, it is soon obvious that Cherry’s relatives are far better actors when it comes to swindling than the stage. Theatre Rose is not making much money and audiences are not impressed with the performances. In one episode a bunch of schoolkids give Aunt and Uncle a well-deserved pelting (and we don’t just mean the ham acting). From the sound of it, it happens to them all the time. In another episode, Michelle and Marvin send the audience to sleep with their wooden acting, which is because they don’t care about the family business anymore; they want to break away from Theatre Rose and make their own way as performers.
What keeps Cherry in their power is that she is just as naïve and good-natured as her mother. For this reason, she just can’t see she is being taken advantage of, not even when it is staring at her right in the face. For example, she notices that she has done nothing but housework since she arrived instead of learning how to perform but thinks nothing of it. In another episode, she is forced to work in cold, wet clothes after nasty Marvin sends her flying into freezing water until she becomes ill. But not even this makes her wake up to the way she is being treated.
What’s more, her relatives are very cunning at pulling the wool over her eyes, to the extent of convincing her that all the slaving she is doing is all for the benefit of her training as an actress. And as long as Cherry doesn’t realise she is being abused, she is making no moves to escape or seek help. There’s no schooling either where she might get help or welfare taking a hand; her uncle and aunt keep her off school so she can continue slaving for them, and Cherry is only too happy to be off school to realise why.
One evening Cherry puts on an impromptu song-and-dance number for her relatives and Uncle Bernard instantly sees her star quality – and the money it will make for them. But they don’t say that to her. However, they don’t want her getting downhearted and going home because they will lose their skivvy. So Uncle Bernard suckers her even more by promising to coach her and have her think that it will be his doing that makes her a star when her big break comes. But he’s not offering her real coaching at all; it’s all part of keeping her as the barge skivvy. What coaching Cherry gets comes from herself. Unknown to them, she learns the scripts of their plays as a secret understudy so she can step in when one of the relatives can’t perform, and prove herself that way.
Her chance comes when Marvin skips off to play guitar at a club instead of performing at the family play. Aunt and Uncle grudgingly allow Cherry to replace Marvin as she knows the lines: “Anyhow, most of the old ducks in the audience were asleep last night. They probably wouldn’t notice if a performing seal went on in Marvin’s place!”
But Cherry has to turn things around into a Charlie Chaplin-esque comedy performance because that’s the only way her costume will allow it. As a result, the performance is a smashing success (for once) and everyone loves her. Cheers for Cherry at last. It’s her first debut, and Cherry even discovers a press cutting about it later. Will it lead to better things with her relatives?
Not really. They are just as bad as ever, and next night they hustle her away when she’s about to do a repeat performance because a social welfare officer is sniffing around and getting too close to Cherry’s situation.
Then Cherry gets spotted by famous actress Eena Blair, who offers her an audition. Her relatives are out to take advantage, to the point of snatching the bracelet Eena gave her and selling it, which breaks Cherry’s heart. But they doll her up in such a ridiculous way that she fails the audition because she feels wrong. Even her scheming uncle is sincerely disappointed for her and gives her genuine advice: keep going and keep faith in herself.
Later, Cherry bumps into her classmates from Inverglay. They offer her a chance to go home, but Uncle cons her into staying with crocodile tears about how she’s breaking his heart at leaving. Another chance to escape gone, without Cherry even realising it.
Another break comes when Cherry joins a street busker in a performance and gets noticed again. This time it’s Doris Keene of “The Keene Kids”, an agency that provides young actors for commercials. Aunt and Uncle are all for it (because of the money of course) and put on a free show so Doris will see her in action. But Michelle gets jealous at Cherry getting all the breaks and steals the audition for herself. She gets a job in commercials and is happy to break away from Theatre Rose.
What finally frees Cherry from her sly relatives is news that her mother has been involved in an accident, and this time she insists on returning home. The problem is money, which Cherry still doesn’t realise her aunt and uncle are pocketing at her expense. They have even spent the money Cherry just earned at another performance on a whole new wardrobe for Michelle at her new job.
Then an audience, remembering Cherry’s one-night Charlie Chaplin-esque performance, turn up in droves to see her again. Cherry puts on her self-taught song and dance numbers and raises a huge sum of money. Aunt Margot is all set to pocket it and spend it on home comforts, but Uncle Bernard’s kinder half towards Cherry prevails (or maybe he doesn’t want to risk Cherry finally realising the truth). He lets her have all the money and gives her permission to go home, saying her talent outclasses the Theatre Rose and there is nothing more they can do for her.
Aunt Margot is furious: “What about your grand plans for her? She was going to keep us in clover, you old fool!”
This is said right in front of Cherry, but she still doesn’t grasp the significance. Instead, she is full of tears and gratitude towards her uncle, and to the very end she fails to realise they’ve being exploiting and cheating her from the very beginning.
Cherry returns home and is relieved to see her mother has recovered. But she suffers from people gossiping about her failure as an actress. Plus her schoolwork is lousy because her Aunt and Uncle kept her off school. She has also lost heart in pursuing the stage.
Then Cherry is asked to participate in a variety show for charity, which she intends to be her swansong. However, her performance is televised and gets her noticed, and she receives an offer to star in a children’s show.
This story is in the vein of the Cinderella theme, which was prevalent in Jinty and Tammy during the 1970s. It’s also one of the last at IPC because the theme was phasing out by the late 1970s at IPC (though it remained popular at DCT). The difference is that this Cinderella just doesn’t realise that she is a Cinderella and is being taken advantage of by grasping, manipulative relatives. So, unlike Cinderella Smith, Make-Believe Mandy and other Cinderella types in girls’ comics she is not trying to escape the abuse or fight against it, because she just can’t see it for what it is. And others can’t see it either because it is itinerant (travelling with the barge) and Cherry is not going to school where someone might realise what is going on and help her. Nor can Cherry use her talent to console herself against the abuse and use it as a means of escape as so many of her counterparts have done.
So how the heck can this Cinderella escape from this situation? It clearly lies in either Cherry wising up or something freeing her from the exploitation, or even both. One possibility is that Cherry might win respect from her guardians as her talent develops and they treat her better. But we soon see that’s no good either. Like so many other abusive relatives they either get jealous of it (Michelle) or take advantage of it and pocket the profits (Aunt and Uncle). Maybe Uncle Bernard’s soft side for Cherry will somehow help; his attitude seems to improve a bit, such as when he is genuinely disappointed she failed her audition. Or maybe the people who take an interest in her might make her an offer that frees her without realising. But nothing seems to work, and it gets increasingly frustrating to watch as Cherry remains in the clutches of her mean relatives without her even realising what is going on.
In the end, Cherry does become a star and gets a lot of big breaks during her time with Theatre Rose. But did Theatre Rose actually help her to do it – in spite of itself? Would Cherry would have gotten those breaks without Theatre Rose? Did Uncle Bernard really help develop her talent after all, albeit in an underhand, roundabout way? After all, her mother can’t afford acting school, so she was less likely to get a break if she had stayed in Inverglay. Guess Jinty leaves it up to her readers to decide.
Still, the fact remains that Cherry’s relatives got away with exploiting her without any consequences whatsoever. Michelle even got a plum job out of it, which she wouldn’t even have got without Cherry. We are left wishing Theatre Rose gets struck by lightning and sinks to the bottom of the river or something.