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Tony forges gems from a sack of Black Country tat

The Life and Times of the Tat Man, The Humber pub, Humber Road, Coventry, April 1

Forget theatres for a moment, it was the ancient art of storytelling that kept a Coventry pub

audience enthralled on April 1st.

It was no joke. The landlady at The Humber in Stoke - where pints of beer where once lined up on the bar ready for the lunchtime rush of clockwatching car workers - took the

adventurous step of inviting the Regional Voice Theatre Company to visit.

And nobody in the small but hugely appreciative back parlour, was disappointed.

In his series of tales based on real-life Black Country reminiscences, actor Tony Barrett offered up The Life and Times of The Tat Man.

Or Rag and Bone man if, like me, you come from further up north.

Either way it's a dealer in scrap, stories told by a man with a cart and imaginary horse, touring the streets as he looks back on his life. Much of the script is pure nostalgia. These are the tales your grandfather and great-grandfather told in the days before reality tv and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

But it's captivating nostalgia, gathered by writer David Calcutt and delivered with passion and precision by Tony, as he lays bare not only the memories of others, like the travelling blacksmith with 19 "wives," - perhaps a slight exaggeration but not by much - along with gypsy lore, childhood trials and a final memory from his own family's First World War archive that never fails to trigger tears.

I'm glad Regional Voice have funding from the Lottery and other organisations - long may they thrive, I'll be first in the queue for a ride into the recent past.

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