Mark Maier: Objects, New End Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

While a number of other comedians at last year's Edinburgh Fringe were gratuitously trading on their psychological baggage and their addictions, clamouring for their audiences to provide therapy, Mark Maier's rather more charming look at his own neurosis, Objects, was somewhat neglected. Maier claims to have been troubled, as a child, by the idea that inanimate objects could talk back to him; indeed, it seems only fair that they could, given that we shout at our keys when we lose them or rail against cars that won't start.

Taking the roles of a number of objects and giving them each a regional or national identity, Maier shows the audience how his "fat baby on the rampage" antics affected the things around him. A felt-tip "Mr Green" complains in a mobster drawl that he is "a pale imitation of my former self" after having been feverishly rubbed against walls, yet he is defiant in the face of his fate: "The guys reckon we're gonna lie around here in this box maybe two, three more weeks before the kid rips out our guts and turns us into pea-shooters. Yeah, well, he can blow it out my ass!"

In later years, when Maier is "fat boy on the rampage", a high-pitched Geordie Swan Vesta match mourns the cost of pubescent pyromania: "I miss Brian. He was lovely, was Brian. 'You should see my family tree,' he used to say, 'there's over two million of us.' And we'd laugh and laugh."

The characterisations are enjoyable and distinct, thanks to Maier's vocal and facial dexterity. A shirt bestowed with Woody Allen's voice and personality is particularly well carried off and doesn't feel gratuitous but, as one of the strongest characters, should have featured more. Towards the end, things become a little more sketchy and less developed, and the balancing act between humour and poignancy makes the show teeter slightly.

However, Maier, a regular guest of the Comedy Store Players, is successful in capturing the mischief and imagination of youth, and delights in the tale of persuading his younger brother Daniel to destroy some bushes because they are, in fact, Daleks about to kill him. As he looks at the ensuing carnage, Maier is elated that his little brother is on the same level as him. Their shared outlook is clearly intact years later, as both he and Daniel continue to collaborate on matters comedic, including the recently recommissioned BBC Radio 4 comedy-drama series Trapped.

Topping and tailing the show are suitable bursts of Maier's stand-up humour, and a chance to show off some well-crafted gags away from the constraints of his characters' routines. For example, he tells a cracking joke about the dilemma presented if an obese child is offered a light salad rather than sweets by a stranger. Clever and amiable, Maier's stand-up is well honed; with Objects, he clearly wants to prove that, like his characters, he can work on several levels.

To Saturday (0870 033 2733)

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