Interview: Edward Af Sillén Talks Ahead Of The Eurovision Song Contest Final About His Love For The Contest And Future Theatre Productions.

Director and writer of stage and screen shares his love for the Eurovision Song Contest in the run up to his 14th year as Sweden's commentator.

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This weekend will see the grand final of the biggest music event in the world come to Liverpool. The Eurovision Song Contest has created many a musical theatre star, but Sweden have been delighted for 14 years by commentary from a powerhouse of Swedish theatre, TV and film. I spoke with writer, director and TV star Edward af Sillén about his career and love for the contest.


Adam Robinson: Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool marks 14 years since you began commentating for Sweden. Did you expect back in 2009 to still be at the helm for this long and have got as wonderful a reception for it?

Honestly, I never expected it to last. When they asked me to do it, I was over the moon happy. Growing up, loving Eurovision and loving comedy; my dream was always to get to commentate the contest - but it was a dream I knew would never come true. It was too specific. How would I ever get into that room? So it was one of those things I knew I could only fantasize about. Like climbing the Mount Everest or marry Milo Ventimiglia. It will never happen. And then suddenly, it happened?! Next stop: Milo!


In that time you have also got to direct and write scripts for three Eurovisions, 2010, 2013 and 2016. As a long-time fan that must have been the ultimate honour?


Just unreal. And to get to do it with such brilliant hosts, that understand and share my sense of humour, and laugh at same things. What a blessing it was for us. Hard work, but great fun.


How did it feel to be asked by the BBC to co-write Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits, working again with Petra Mede but also the UK commentator Graham Norton?

Graham Norton is a huge inspiration for us - his wit, his positivity, his timing. We adore him. And to get to write comedy FOR him... it was a huge pinch-me-moment. And what a kind, kind man he was. Welcomed us with open arms.


With Loreen - Tattoo making Sweden a favourite to win Eurovision 2023, have you felt any pressure from the fans to return to the writing and directing side if SVT asks next year?

Yes, I feel enormous pressure to be honest. I wasn´t prepared really to might have to return so soon to writing a Swedish Eurovision. But it´s such a dream job, so how could I ever complain? Also, we haven´t won yet, and I haven´t gotten the offer to do it yet, so... Let´s not think about it just yet.


You are famous for your big musical numbers at Eurovision, such as Swedish Smörgåsbord, What is Eurovision? and Love Love Peace Peace which The Independent named the "ultimate interval act". How important was it for you to bring theatrical moments like these to the song contest?


It was literally my dream. I asked myself and my writing partner; what unites everyone? What can we do that everyone can relate to? And we felt the answer was; comedy. And preferably comedy ABOUT the Eurovision. Because that´s the one thing everybody watching have in common. The show that they´re watching. So it became so clear to me that that should be our source for comedy. That´s how "Love Love Peace Peace" was born. Out of desperation to find something that every culture watching would recognise.

And I was raised watching big musical comedy numbers. It´s like air to me. I need it. Haha.


The musical you co-wrote, Så som i himmelen, based on the legendary Swedish film of the same name, has been a smash hit in Sweden. Did you anticipate it to be as big a success?


You never anticipate something to be a big success really. I hoped. But it was such insanely hard work, so in the end I just hoped it would make it to opening night, honestly. The success has been a blessing beyond words. But it´s such a great story, it´s relatable to everyone with a dream... Who doesn't love a good happy ending?


With music by Fredrik Kempe, and staring Malena Ernman, it must have felt like a mini Eurovision 2009 reunion working with them again?


Haha that´s true. But you know, Sweden´s a small place compared to the UK, so talents often tend to cross over genres and meet in projects again and again. It´s lovely. Often feels like family


Så som i himmelen has now debuted in countries such as Norway, Germany and soon to be Denmark. Is there talk of bringing it to London's West End or Broadway?


It´s incredible. We´re just watching with our jaws dropped as it makes its way into the hearts of audiences in different countries. I was just on Iceland and saw a beautiful Icelandic production of it, and the production in Norway just won their Tony for best musical. It´s humbling for us. And yes... there is absolutely a British production in the works... I mean, there are plans for it. If it will happen or not, who knows. That´s a tough needle to thread.


Your next theatre project, again with Eurovision songwriter Fredrik Kempe, will be Änglagård opening in Stockholm later in the year. Are you excited to be working with Eurovision 1969 and 1988 representative Tommy Körberg?


He is a legend in Sweden, and one of the funniest men I know. I can´t wait to collaborate. He did Chess on the West End in 80´s and I can listen to him sing that duet with Elaine Page forever!


2023 will see the release of your fourth film Ett sista race, which you wrote and directed. Which do you find the most enjoyable to write and direct for, Film, Theatre or Eurovision?


It´s the mix that makes me happy. I get restless if I am in one place too long. I need the change of air and the change of creative guidelines. I´m very lucky to be able to move between these genres, and I´m very aware of how lucky I am. But I will say this: theatre is where the biggest piece of my heart is. Theatre to me is life and death.


As a director, which would you say were some of your favourite staging concepts, or camera shots from previous Eurovision performances?


I have to say; the opening that I got to do with Loreen and all the children, for the first semi final in Eurovision 2013 meant to much to me. I´m so proud of that, how it turned out. And Loreen is such a dream artist to collaborate with. She is a force of nature. All you have to do is have a good idea and show up. Haha.


As for Eurovision stagings... I adored Chanel last year because she raised the bar of what is possible to do in 3 minutes... and Loreen's performance this year of Tattoo I think is so beautiful. The light, the closeness to nature... The way it goes from claustrophobic to majestic. I adore it.


Photo Credit: Bo Håkansson


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