The couple taking over Highgate's pub theatre have pledged to keep its "special atmosphere," and serve their "loyal local audience".

Annlouise Butt managed Upstairs at the Gatehouse for founders John and Katie Plews, and understands what makes it tick.

"Our main focus is to serve the local audience with the shows they have grown to enjoy," she said.

"Over three and a half years I've observed we have a loyal local audience, but also some who come from further afield, and know The Gatehouse as a friendly place where they can see a wide range of work.

"We are famous for our big Christmas musicals, but we also have a mix of local amateur groups, and young production companies hiring the space and bringing really good musicals. People really trust us for musical theatre, but the local audience also like plays, and know they can come and see varied work. John and Katie picked the kind of historical, political theatre which suited the audience."

Butt has a background as a freelance producer, while partner Isaac Bernier-Doyle was a "mediocre actor for my 20s" and is now a songwriter and composer, with a sideline in teaching acting and singing.

Butt says the charm of the venue is the "intimacy and closeness with the actors."

Ham & High: A past production of 42nd Street Upstairs at the GatehouseA past production of 42nd Street Upstairs at the Gatehouse (Image: Archant)

"Venues like ours are part of the eco-system of developing new talent - from directors to performers. Our audience like seeing people at the beginning of their careers before they were in the West End."

The couple plan to introduce seasonal programming, so each season has a good mix of work "so each audience has something to enjoy each season."

Bernier-Doyle said with no subsidy, and rising cost of living expenses, they are "feeling their way" with producing their own work.

"It's a question of getting finances together. We will start off small scale with productions, before building up to the Christmas show.

"The venue has been proud to pay pretty well for in-house productions, keeping that going and having a high level of production values to do a great show means you have to pay for set, costumes and lighting."

Ham & High: John Plews ran The Gatehouse for 35 years with wife Katie. The couple have given up the lease with Isaac and Annlouise taking over this monthJohn Plews ran The Gatehouse for 35 years with wife Katie. The couple have given up the lease with Isaac and Annlouise taking over this month (Image: © Nigel Sutton email

Less expensive programming will include scratch nights, rehearsed readings of new plays, opera workshops and cabaret. They are also looking into comedy nights to replace the popular Monday Night Magic which in the past has featured the likes of Derren Brown and Andy Nyman.

"The venue has a history of developing new work and writing," said Butt. "People trust us to come and see something, they give us the freedom to try new things, but they are a vocal audience and will tell us if they like it or not."

They also hope to be a "cultural hub where artists from North London can hang out, rehearse and work on their shows."

Bernier-Doyle added: "People come upstairs from the pub expecting to find a small room and are surprised there's a full theatre up here. It's a lovely environment, a space for the comunity to come, it makes the whole experience of coming to the theatre an event."

Forthcoming shows include Garden Suburb Theatre's production of The Misanthrope, and Tapped, Katie Redford's witty, sensitive new play about a motivational group which explores mental health, self-help jargon, and the power of human connection.

Upstairs at The Gatehouse, Highgate Village, N6.