Forced Entertainment specialise in creating theatre that 'articulates and engages with the contemporary world', but their latest project The Coming Storm fails to be anything more than an interesting insight into the idiosyncracies of story-telling. As a show, it's dull and rather uninspired - a couple of nice moments are not enough in this muddled production.

The Coming Storm is all about story-telling - and, as each performer tries to tell their stories and engage with each other's, various narratives unwind. Their efforts to interact with each other's often tall tales confuse rather than explain, often adding new tangents that create further complications to a show that struggles to say anything at all.

It's conceivable that that's the goal here - that Forced Entertainment want to dissect and complicate the story-telling process to the point at which it all becomes a bit pointless. Because, in the end, aren't stories fractured by their retelling? By being understood through different art forms, isn't each story losing an element of what makes it unique, even to the point of not being the same story any more at all? Potentially -and the discussion on what identifies a given story is an interesting one, but by making that argument literally (by fracturing their own narratives to the point of incomprehension), Forced Entertainment's resulting show is almost unwatchable. 

Utilising various props, costume and set, Forced Entertainment take it in turns to snatch a microphone off of each other and try to tell a story, or talk about the art of telling stories. No story is ever told completely - often a performer will start a story, then be interrupted by any number of distractions from their fellow actors. There's a strong sense of improvisation, probably codified through devising into a specific set of vignettes, but the result doesn't really have any hook to hang onto. You can't quite shake the feeling that you're just watching six actors arguing with each other about what to show their captive audience - again, that may be how Forced Entertainment feel, but that doesn't mean that the result is particularly good.

It's conceivable that this started off as a good concept, and that the result is a disappointment. It certainly seems to be more about when these processes fail over when they succeed. But all that this rather renowned company end up displaying is a messy collection of decent moments - there are some lovely musical interludes, including a quirky sketch about a man hanging himself, but that's it.

Without meaning to be too derogatory, it's the kind of thing an amateur company could have put together - and would be derided for. I expected a lot more from Forced Entertainment, and would have thought that they could have done more with this idea, made a better show out of this concept. Instead, they seem to have floundered with their own artistic ideals and ended up presenting something highly unworthy of their name. Very, very disappointing.

The Coming Storm, at Battersea Arts CentreChris Hislop reviews Forced Entertainment's The Coming Storm at Battersea Arts Centre - part of LIFT 2012.2