This paper examines the role that a properly functioning theatre culture should play in the workings of democracy. The key concepts of Athenian democracy are applied to the part played by theatre in involving citizens in the governance and well-being of their society. McGrath contends that there is a constant need for a society to transcend its norms and to go beyond the boundaries of accepted wisdom. Theatre is perhaps the only public forum capable of achieving this. The work of Cornelius Castoriadis is examined, particularly his concept of the ‘social imaginary’ and the self-identity of a society as an artefact created by various forces, including theatre. McGrath’s account of a failed experiment in theatrical ‘democracy’ and of the failure of much of contemporary theatre even to approach its potential role in society, is counterbalanced by the vision of theatre as an active ingredient in an active democracy.