Turandot is a tale told in ChoiceScript, probably adapted from the Puccini opera, though there are other versions of the story both before and after the opera floating around. It's a fairy tale: Princess Turandot's suitors must correctly answer her three riddles in order to win her hand, or be executed instead. Calaf, the hero, succeeds but offers the reluctant Turandot a way out. If she learns his name before sunrise, she can have him executed as though he'd failed after all. After some opera-appropriate drama and a rendition of Nessun Dorma, Calaf simply tells Turandot his name and leaves his fate in her hands; at sunrise, she declares that his name is "Love", they marry, and live happily ever after.

This Choicescript adaptation, of course, shifts a few things around. Here, Calaf is not a dispossessed prince but a jaded and dissolute young nobleman. In addition to the three riddles, we have a Dungeon of Doom to navigate. A decision to "not sleep" does not result in an audition for "America/Britain's Got Talent". And we also spend a lot more time with Turandot discussing the nature of love and moral culpability.

This is Victor Gijsbers, after all.

There's a curious mix of tones in the writing. At times, there's a verbosity I'd associate with Shakespearan drama, very formal and flowery even when it's discussing, er, some of the earthier elements in life. At others, we get lines like "So you were like: dude, it's a dungeon, it's supposed to be dark." This inconsistency extends somewhat to the emotional journey of our main characters, though that may partly be a result of the Choice format. I have difficulty accepting, especially, that Calaf goes so quickly from grief at one point to whistling cheerfully in the next scene. Gijsbers is, I think, more interested in the lessons to be learnt in allegory than in the allegory itself.

Not that it isn't an interesting discussion. These are all problematic characters, and always have been. There is a sexism inherent in "winning" a lady, especially one who doesn't want to be won, which the opera attempted to address by having Calaf pass total control back to Turandot in the final act -- to make the union as much her choice as his. Gijsbers does something similar by having Calaf deliberately answer one riddle wrongly, but here it's framed as theatrics. "Winning" the lady in this case is a matter of navigating the conversation with Turandot in such a way as to prove that we don't see her as a prize to be won in a game, and here lies the dilemma: this IS a game, which means she IS the literal prize to be won. If we're not approaching this challenge with the mindset of a gamer going for a prize -- choosing the "right" answer over the answer we actually want -- it's because Gijsbers is carefully guiding our hand (and our words) throughout the encounter. We show ourselves to be the man Turandot wants by not actively gaming the system, because we don't really have much choice.

I don't know if it accomplished everything it intended to. I'm not sure if the problematic nature of Turandot herself and why Calaf would love her was addressed to my satisfaction, though your mileage may vary. But I was entertained, and that's the main thing. If this were breakfast, it might be a slice of smorgastorta. It's something of a mixed bag: there's a richness of experience built into its cream cheese "icing", and a bit of sly humour just from the fact it's a savoury sandwich dressed up like a dessert. Also, we have a very strong, black coffee to go with it, because ... y'know, nessun dorma, no-one sleeps tonight.