This article explores connections between performance and democracy in a 2012 Portuguese performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream created by the collective Teatro Praga. An unselfconsciously spectacular one-off performance within the European Capital of Culture framework, the performance brought together theatre performers, singers, musicians and visual artists in a Midsummer Night’s Dream based on both the Shakespearean comedy and Purcell’s The Fairy Queen.
The performance was notable for several performance practices that have become associated with the collective’s stated aim to promote greater democracy in performance, particularly in the areas of theatrical collaboration and participation. The article examines the claim that such performance practices inherently promote democracy by questioning the extent to which performers and spectators were empowered within a spectacle designed to please and delight. The article aims specifically to counter what it perceives to be a lack of situated analysis of particular performance practices resulting from the failure to link the contingency of performance practices with wider social forms.