All the King's Men - Picking Up the Pieces

Making their Fringe debut under a year since their foundation, All the King’s Men is comprised of twelve charming, charismatic, but, unfortunately, not musically satisfying chaps from King’s College, London.In terms of performance style, All the Kings Men were spot on. The tone was set from the beginning when they started singing from within the audience, gradually building a signature song full of stereo, bassy loveliness, before enthusiastically moving into some classic 1970s disco – complete with over the top retro dance moves and cheesey choreography and a refreshingly even spread of energy across the group.Musically, however, the performance was rather less regal. It is perhaps inevitable that, as such a young group, in order to fill a Fringe set they might have to compromise on arrangement quality in favour of quantity: as Musical Director of the youngest a cappella group on the Fringe, hats off to Henry Southern for presenting an impressive number of well-chosen, infectious arrangements that the group performed with aplomb. However, the arrangements themselves were weak, lacking depth and daring and not engaging the full potential of the group. An advantage of all-male a cappella is the vocal range and volume available to them; this was left unexplored and, when more daring musical moments did feature in the backing, beyond simply octavising the basses and using repetitive chord patterns, they were often greeted with uncharacteristic caution and a lack of conviction.This was a shame as All the King’s Men undoubtedly have a lot of potential, as demonstrated by a number of the soloists. Two of my favourite songs from the show were Amazing Grace and In the Still of the Night, both of which had exceptional soloists: the former showcased the mellow tones of a bass clearly stolen from the Welsh National Opera, while the soloist of the latter, who shone in other pieces too, laid a beautiful, more musically experimental solo effectively onto smooth, spiritual-style backing. For a bunch of (mostly) white boys with a self-mockingly public school attitude, All the King’s Men carried the slower, spiritual songs well: all three soloists of Tender Is the Night demonstrated admirable tone and control and the simplicity of the arrangement here worked poignantly. Numbers like this demonstrated how good the King’s Men could be – but unfortunately, the confidence exuded in their performance style was not generally justified.In terms of providing an enjoyable performance, these boys were spot on and the audience absolutely loved them. If I had been measuring them as comedy or improv, I would incline to higher than three stars. However, musically, they were much weaker than the four or five stars their energy deserves, a shame as it is generally the confidence to perform convincingly that foxes new a cappella groups. I couldn’t help feeling that they relied too much on comedy, at the expense of, rather than to supplement, the musical aspects of the show. When performing Thriller, for example, bold choreography is of course necessary and this need was admirably fulfilled, but at the expense of tuning, rhythm and musical cohesion in the verses. Further, when certain members of the group couldn’t seem to drop the comedic aspects when shifting to the more simple, moving numbers, this comedy risked spoiling more poignant moments.There were a few other hitches in the performance, such as a lack of blend in the tenors and some choreography that was rather suspiciously similar to that of a certain other all-male university a cappella group at the Fringe. Overall, All The King’s Men were fantastically fun, a classy, charismatic outfit, and ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ is an hour of unrelentingly energetic, feel good performance. Just don’t go in with expectations of high musical quality.

Reviews by Amy Crothers

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Fourteen distinctive young men, infectious tunes and fun choreography. This wonderful performance is produced with voices only. Varied yet accessible repertoire. A show seasoned with humour and mischief fit for any king!

Most Popular See More

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets