All the King’s Men

Vocal/A Cappella, C Venues – C, Venue 34, 15:20 until 22nd August.

“Let me entertain you”, sing the 11 blue chino-clad performers that make up All the King’s Men, mid-way through their Fringe show set. And entertain they do.

The show, dubbed ‘Radio Gaga’, takes its audience through a variety of familiar radio stations, with transitions marked by an oral representation of radio frequencies and a witty pastiche of the station’s presenters, introducing the next song.

The show offers something for everyone, with fast, upbeat and fully choreographed numbers set against slower, more musically sophisticated pieces. The show’s opening number, an arrangement of Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’, perfectly encapsulates this variety, beginning with a beautiful countertenor solo above a humming accompaniment, whose crunching suspensions and complex dissonances immediately identify this accappella group as a force to be reckoned with. This rapidly develops into a fast-pace mash-up with Ed Sheeran’s ‘Give Me Love’, featuring beat boxing, fast-paced choreography, and evolving into a gospelesque finale, to which the audience readily clapped along, feeding off the group’s contagious energy. The radio station structure proves a handy tool for such variety, with Classic FM permitting a stunning 4-part performance of Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’, and Radio 1’s Live Lounge eliciting an electric rendition of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bloodstream’. From an unusual interpretation of the classic ‘Lean On Me’ to a fun arrangement of ‘Living la Vida Loca’ to a parody of Italian opera featuring Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’, All the King’s Men really do cover all bases.

Whilst some of the choreography accompanying their faster numbers teeters dangerously close to cliché, such moments are saved by the group’s vocal expertise and the sophistication of their slower pieces. In spite of their fast movement and complex set, they sustain remarkable tuning, diction (you don’t miss a word), vocal control and balance. Individual soloists reveal exceptionally talented and, one imagines, well-trained voices. The result is a polished and distinctly professional performance by a group whose experience (this is their fifth Fringe show) is palpable.

All the King’s Men’s Fringe show is everything that an a cappella show should be, whilst narrowly avoiding the stereotypes that have come to haunt the genre since the creation of Glee, through a performance that is polished, current, and thoroughly entertaining.

Image credit: All The King’s Men

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