Triple Success For Savoy At UNIFest

Savoy Opera Society have multiple reasons to celebrate after Isabella Mansell won ‘Best Female Performer’, and the whole cast were awarded with ‘Best Chorus’, before finishing runners-up overall at this year’s UNIFest competition!

The society’s production of The Gondoliers, directed by Alice McKeever, was exceptionally well-received by the judging panel, with Isabella’s portrayal of the character Tessa also seeing her nominated for ‘Best Female Voice’. Jamie Mark was also recognised, earning a nomination in the 'Best Musical Director' category, capping off an outstanding day for Savoy.

Success: The cast of The Gondoliers who shone at this year's UNIFest competition, picking up 'Best Chorus' and finishing second overall

What is UNIFest?

Now in its 25th year, The International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival is one of the UK’s leading arts events. It is an annual celebration of the very best performances of one of the country’s most successful and enduring musical partnerships – Sir Arthur Sullivan and W S Gilbert.

The Festival brings together lovers of comic operettas from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, United States, Spain, Russia and Germany. For three weeks in August, Harrogate becomes the centre of the universe for people who adore shows such as Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Patience and HMS Pinafore. There are talks, lectures, cabaret performances and sing-alongs, as well as fully staged amateur and professional productions.

The Festival features forty full-scale productions staged in the magnificent Harrogate Royal Hall and the Harrogate Theatre for youth, university and other special interest performances.

Savoy competed in the University Festival competition, where they not only represented themselves, but also the Students’ Union and the whole of Royal Holloway, competing against other university societies from across the UK.

Gondoliers: Giuseppe (Josip Martincic) and Marco Palmieri (Rock Lee) at the heart of the action

New Horizons

Savoy had never previously appeared at the Festival, but that all changed this year with Josip Martincic, who plays Giuseppe Palmieri in the show, organising a trip to perform and take in other performances. The cast and crew of The Gondoliers travelled ‘oop north’ on Friday 10 August, and performed the next day in the beautiful Harrogate Theatre with a 9-piece orchestra of professional musicians all provided for free by the Festival. The performance was met with delight from the 500-seat audience and the show is immortalised with a DVD recording filmed by a professional company.

Beautiful: Harrogate Theatre played host to our performers, as they put on a show in front of a large audience

The Competition

Savoy were competing against societies from universities including Cambridge, York, Hull, Southampton, Newcastle, Birmingham and King’s College London. The competitive categories included best male & female voice, best male & female performer, best character actor & actress, best chorus, best costume, best musical director and best director. The top three in each of the categories were regarded as the nominees, from which one winner was selected.

Isabella, who graduated this summer with First Class Honours in English & Drama, rounded off her time at Royal Holloway in perfect fashion as she collected the ‘Best Female Performer’ gong, while also earning a nomination for her incredible vocals. Winning ‘Best Chorus’ was a magnificent achievement for the whole cast, while Jamie deserves a special mention for his nomination in the ‘Best Musical Director’ category - not bad for his first time musically directing a show!


Winners: Isabella Mansell, Jamie Mark and the three awards picked up by director, Alice McKeever, at the awards ceremony

The Reaction: Josip Martincic

We caught up with Josip who spoke with pride regarding Savoy's success: “this [‘Best Chorus’] was such a significant win, as even the adjudicator of the competition stated how one should never overlook the importance of the chorus. Savoy prides itself on its inclusive and friendly nature, giving an opportunity for performance to all, so to receive praise for such an integral part of what makes Savoy the little family it is, felt so rewarding.”

“Four nominations and two wins is a remarkable achievement made even more impressive when considering that this is the first year Savoy competed against universities that have been regularly attending the festival and winning prizes.”

After all of the individual awards have been handed out, one society is rewarded with the prestigious title of overall UNIFest champion. While Savoy were pipped to that award by King's College for their production of Trial By Jury, being awarded runners-up was a sensational accomplishment.

“It was as a huge triumphant moment when Royal Holloway were announced as the runners-up. To receive this recognition brought so much pride to everyone who was involved in making this an incredible experience and to be involved with UNIFest will no doubt become a long-standing tradition of Savoy Opera Society.”


Love: Tessa (Isabella Mansell) and Giuseppe (Josip Martincic) who marry in the opera

The Reaction: Holly Hughes (VP Societies & Media)

“This is a fantastic achievement on behalf of both the individuals in Savoy and the society itself. It’s inspiring to see the multitude of incredible things our societies achieve over the course of the year and as an SU we are so proud to support them in all their endeavours. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see what you will do over the next year.”

Get Involved

If you're interested in getting involved with Savoy or want to find out more information about the society, please visit their website or check out their Facebook page.