Milkshake brings all the kids to Harpenden Public Halls for Christmas panto

Milkshake's Jen Pringle with a young fan at Harpenden Public Halls.

Milkshake's Jen Pringle with a young fan at Harpenden Public Halls. - Credit: Archant

Milkshake TV presenter Jen Pringle is confident she won’t be shaken when she makes her Harpenden panto debut next week.

Jen Pringle from Channel 5's Milkshake!

Jen Pringle from Channel 5's Milkshake! - Credit: Act One Pantomimes

Jen, 34, who has been at the forefront of the Channel 5 early years segment for 11 years, is appearing as Fairy Bowbells in Act One Pantomimes’ production of Dick Whittington, the latest in a long line of panto roles.

“It’s my first panto here, but elsewhere I’ve been Wendy, Snow White, Princess Jasmine... usually the characters with the nicest dress! I did Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in Eastbourne in October which I’m going back to when I’ve finished this. That’s the biggest role I’ve ever played, it was a big challenge with lots of songs to sing.”

Unlike many wannabe television stars who spend years hoping for a big break, Jen was fortunate enough to walk straight into her Milkshake role.

“I did my PGCE teaching drama at Manchester Met, and while I was doing that I got the job at Milkshake, and I’ve been there ever since - how lucky am I? I’ve been at Milkshake for 11 years now and will stay for as long as they’ll have me! I love it, I absolutely love it!

“I always wanted to be an actress, but then when I was 11 I decided that I wanted to be a children’s TV presenter. I’ve always been a poser, ever since I was three - my parents had a video camera and they’d set it up so I could present on the TV. I’ve always wanted to do it.”

So how scripted is her Milkshake role? “We make it up as we go along. We don’t have any autocue, it’s free rein, each presenter can do what they like. I’ve got the nickname of ‘the Nutty One’ because I do tend to have giggling episodes every now and then, especially when things go wrong! I love laughing and will probably laugh my way through this as well! It keeps me fit and keeps me on my toes!”

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Does she find she’s never off duty as a children’s TV presenter?

“I’m actually quite a good girl anyway, but if I do have an alcoholic beverage it’s usually then that I get spotted by dads and have to hide it behind my back! You have got an image to portray as a children’s presenter. It’s usually the parents who recognise me because the children think I live in their television!”

Would she ever consider a more dramatic role? “I don’t know whether I could do serious acting, but I’d give it a go. I really love acting and it’s so nice that I get to do acting with pantos and the Wizard of Oz, because I’ve grown up doing performances in theatre, it’s a nice break from Milkshake to do something different!

“I’m with Milkshake Live so we go around the country doing a theatre show, and that’s more like a panto as well, with us playing different roles. It’s great, a really good show, and we’re doing that again from February to October next year. So I don’t really know what my ideal role would be, I’ve love to be in the West End for maybe one week to see how it is, I’m not the best singer in the world though, I’m no Maria!”

Harpenden’s Christmas shows are always very traditional productions, owing as much to the music hall tradition as pantomime, and Jen is more than happy with this take.

“What’s really nice about this production is that it’s really a panto. There are some productions that go to town on all the spectacular special effects, which is amazing, but they take away from the real element of what panto is - something for the whole family to enjoy, with the story and the morals, but also lots of fun and it’s really silly. These guys are absolutely brilliant, their comic timing is fantastic. It’s nice to escape from real life and have a bit of fun!”

Away from performing, she’s recently become an official ambassador for the Sick Children’s Trust: “I’ve supported them for about three years now, it’s families with really poorly children at Great Ormond Street mainly, and they just make sure they have a home from home so they don’t have to pay for hotels. They are amazing what they do.”

Finally, Herts Ad cub reporter Anwen wanted to ask her what it was like being a fairy: “It’s lovely being a fairy because I get to wear a sparkly dress, I’ve got a wand and nice shoes, and everytime I come on stage I get a big puff of smoke! When the nasty Queen Rat is trying to make things bad I try and make everything better, so it’s a good job to have!”

And although she wouldn’t be drawn on her top Milkshake show, she admits to having a soft spot for Ben and Holly’s cheeky fairy: “Nanny Plum is my favourite. She’s just the best character, she’s so funny.”

• Tickets for what promises to be a fun-filled family panto are on sale now at or from the box office on 01582 767525.