Originally a play for RTÉ radio in 1982, this tale of Frankenstein's apprentice has since been adapted for stage and toured Ireland twice.
The set is a cellar, but raised behind it is a neutral area for Frankensteins laboratory and world.
We start with the sound of a squealing rat that scratches desperately on wood.
We hear the sound of awkward, shuffling footsteps.
Then YGOR enters.
YGOR Ah. What have we here. My little brown beast, you have not been as cunning as you should. You came to Ygors room and were lured into his trap.
Let me see you.
He takes up the wooden trap and lifts the lid. He reaches into it.
YGOR Hold. Ah. But how big you are ... have you been here long in the cellars of my masters home? Perhaps it was your children I have been supplying to my master for his work.
Yes. Fight. My master no longer needs living creatures for his studies, and so you are at Ygors mercy. That is bad for you, indeed, for Ygor hates rats almost as much as he hates the villagers. You both do nothing but take, destroy, fend only for yourselves.
The squealing gets louder.
YGOR Well, fat rat, your greedy life has fallen into my hands now, and I...
There is a sharp crack. The squealing ceases.
YGOR I have no use for it.
There was a time when you would have made a fine meal for me, but now even in death you have no use. You see, I have a master who feeds me from his kitchens, and all he asks in return is that I do some simple tasks for him.
I have just come down from my masters laboratory and he is happy. So very happy. He has found the key to the great mystery and now is ready for his finest hour.
The area above lights up and DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN is there. YGOR looks up in admiration.
FRANKENSTEIN Ygor! I know now that I can do what I have sought all my life to do. You will see ... but you will not believe your eyes. This is the final great step ... man can play God. I will prove that there are no limits to science. I will.
The light fades as Ygor talks.
YGOR He is such a great man. And he is so good to me. He has given me these cellars of his home to be my own. Here, Ygor rules.
Not like before.
I had nothing in this world. I was nothing. In the eyes of the villagers, in the eyes of those I offered my labour to, in the eyes of my father and mother ... whoever they were.
I dont know where I was born. As a baby I was found outside an orphanage in Vladistock. A twisted little bundle. Frozen, hungry, screaming. Someones baby. Left like rubbish on the street.
Ygor is strong. These hands, these arms, can carry or pull or chop ... or break. I see workers in the village have half my strength and I say to the man "pay me half their wages and I will do double their work."
But no. They laugh at me. They laugh. "Ygor ... the half man. The cripple. The idiot." Its always the same. Always in my life it has been so. Always being made to pay for what I am.
Always mocked or beaten. Yes. Hard beatings ... and one that was so hard, so cruel...
I have starved. Suffered wet and cold. I slept in the ruin cottage outside the village to the North.
I begged for food.
He halts ... brightens.
YGOR But now no more. I have my master. He takes care of me ... lets me know comfort.
My master is the great Doctor Frankenstein. A fine man with a fine mind ... who was not born in this land, of course.
No. The doctor came to Ingolstadt almost a year ago now. No one knew him. He didnt come as a doctor ... he wasnt here to treat the ailments of the villagers. No no. He came to do his work.
I will always remember the first time I met him.
Ygor also acts out his story, and as he does so, Doctor Frankenstein comes down the steps to him.
YGOR He had been in the castle for some months. Though he had hardly set foot in the village. On this day, he was out strolling in the grounds.
There are lots of rabbits to be found here, and I often come to hunt.
I cant make fire sometimes. It was raining that day and all wood was wet through. But still, I had caught a fine rabbit and I was very hungry.
So I ate.
The master came by. He didnt speak at first. Just looked. I was eating, and I stopped. I think I smiled.
FRANKENSTEIN Who are you.
YGOR I am Ygor.
FRANKENSTEIN How did you catch this creature.
YGOR My bare hands. I am not quick-footed. But I have learned ... life has taught me ... that I have time. Ygor isnt rushing, to-ing and fro-ing like the villagers. Ygor can be still ... lie in a field beneath some bushes, beside a rabbit hole, and wait. Ygor can lie and watch the clouds, let the beetles and ants crawl on him, be wet from the rain, be hungry... and yet be still.
The rabbit will come. He will bob out, wary ... on guard. Looking for danger. But there is nothing. No one. Only Ygor.
FRANKENSTEIN You have no work ... no employer.
YGOR I want to work, sir. But no one will hire me.
FRANKENSTEIN And where do you live.
YGOR Nowhere, sir.
FRANKENSTEIN Then come with me, Ygor. I have work for you.
YGOR Yes, master.
Frankenstein walks away. Ygor watches him, admiring.
I followed him. He gave me my room, my food, and my special work as part of his studies.
The master wanted living, unharmed animals for his studies. So Ygor brought many.
Frankenstein, in his laboratory, works at an operating table. As Ygor talks, he goes up.
YGOR Once, late at night, I came to my masters laboratory. Bringing my catch. The master was busy with his work and I put the animal in a cage and was leaving.
FRANKENSTEIN Come here, Ygor. See this.
Ygor goes to him.
YGOR I saw it. This tiny blob of raw meat, almost round. It flickered. In and out. In and out.
FRANKENSTEIN This is one of your rabbits, Ygor. The rabbit is dead. Its carcass lies there. This is his heart. I make it beat.
YGOR Such a man. To have that power.
Ygor walks back down.
YGOR My task became even easier when he wanted bigger animals. I can talk to cats and dogs. Make them still. Then phhht ... to my master. For his studies.
YGOR I dont EAT cats and dogs. I have my own food. And I have never stolen anything, except in Winter when I was really starving. But once I was stupid. Stupid. I was caught leading a dog away. The villagers said "Ygor, you are eating our dogs!" They beat me and I ran and they chased me here ... to my master.
Frankenstein is above him. He shouts.
FRANKENSTEIN How dare you come here! Get away from my door and off my land! Ygor is harmless! Leave him alone! Leave us in peace and be gone!
YGOR looks up, smiling.
YGOR He protected me. The villagers fear my master. They went away.
Ygors mood darkens, he curls up, brooding.
YGOR Why should I be afraid? Isnt this the simplest task of all? You need cunning to catch living animal, but for this new task my master sets all I need is to go softly. Leave no trace.
"Yes, master, yes. I will do as you say. Yes, I know where the body of Yvgeny Illych lies."
Come, Ygor. Has your courage fled you? Wont you face the dead for your master after all he has done for you?
Rise. Go now and do your masters bidding. Go out into the night and bring back the body. Be prepared to face this new task again and again for the sake of your masters studies.
Ygor exits. Stage lights dim for scene transition.
Night time. Ygor is digging at a grave.
YGOR This is the grave of Danielovich Grovak. His wife gave me food once, when I went to their farm looking for work. I chopped wood for her while her man was out in the fields, and she gave me food.
Danielovich was a strong man. The tallest man in the village ... and broad shoulders. Bigger than the frame of any door.
All his life Danielovich had great strength and perfect health. He worked hard, ate much, had many sons, and lived in peace.
Four days ago, while Danielovich was working in the fields, he got a pain ... in his head. It was a bad pain ... so bad he had to take to his bed. They say he roared and screamed in agony, but would not let his woman fetch the doctor. Then in the night he bled. He bled from his ears. And died.
Very sad. Life is very sad.
He rests from his work.
YGOR Digging up a coffin is hard work ... even for Ygor. Being silent. Leaving no trace. All this in the dark ... once when a storm was raging.
And no time can be wasted. Its the tissues you see. They dont die at the same time as the soul leaves the body, but they die in time. I learned that from my master.
Frankenstein works on a corpse on the operating table.
FRANKENSTEIN Give me the right body, and I will give it life. I know I can do this. All I need is the raw materials of healthy human flesh.
YGOR But good fit men dont die very often. Only old ones. That is the problem. Three bodies in two months. The master grows restless. He cannot complete his experiments.
He was so happy when I told him about Danielovich here.
FRANKENSTEIN What a fine body he will be for my creation! At last, Ygor, I come close to realizing my great scientific dream. What a fine body!
YGOR Yes. And so fresh. Not like Yvgeny Illich, the first body I brought for my master. His body was in the ground for two days before I got him. It was no good ... except for tests.
The second body I brought ... Jan Groschup ... that should have been good. The problem was the way he died. He was a fool who drank too much. One night, going home with a bellyful of too much drink, he must have slipped while crossing a little footbridge over the stream. He fell in and drowned, although the water is no more than three feet deep there. Maybe he cracked his skull.
Groschup used to throw stones at me when he was drunk. He said I made him feel sick. When I opened his coffin ... I was the one who was sick.
The master said that water did it. Groschup was puffed out like a pig. Twisted arms broken to fit into the coffin. His face... like a hideous mask, crumpled, yellow.
Not even the master could use his body. Except for tests.
There is a distant sound ... like a wail.
YGOR What was that... probably a wolf.
I am nervous at this task. Though not as afraid as on the first night I came here.
Not that I fear death. No. There is no danger from beneath the ground or beyond this life. I fear the living. The villagers. They would kill me for sure.
I know what they would say. They would say I was eating the bodies. And they would beat me. A really hard beating ... like the one before. That terrible time. Then they would hang me.
Unless the master would talk to them.
"Ygor does not eat the bodies. I use them for my scientific experiments."
No. The masters secret is far more important than Ygors life. I would not let him speak out for me.
I would do anything for my master. And the bodies? Why, they are useless once the soul departs. They just lie in the ground waiting for the worms to come feed. Anyway. The are the bodies of the villagers. So they are worthless.
This body will please my master. Danielovich Grovak was such a big strong man, the body must be perfect. My master will use his power to give this body life.
He says that when he brings life to a human body, he will be able to show those who mocked him that he was right all along.
Frankenstein is in his laboratory.
FRANKENSTEIN I will show them, Ygor, that man CAN create man.
YGOR To think. My master was mocked. That was why he came to Ingolstadt. He had been in a big college for doctors. His real dream was to find the secret of life ... to put life into dead bodies. When he had done enough studies, he wrote of his aim in a medical journal. Other doctors reading of his work told him he was wrong to attempt such a thing. They said he was mad. They drove him out of the college and stopped him from working in his profession.
They mocked him. Just as I was mocked.
FRANKENSTEIN When people mock, Ygor, it proves they are afraid. Afraid of greatness. Some people will only fight off the unknown. Never embrace it. They want nothing ever to be different.
YGOR I am different.
The servants are sleeping. The master will be waiting to see what I have brought him. He knows he can trust his loyal Ygor.
Perhaps he will even let me watch when he puts his power into the body. Perhaps he will let me see when he connects the wires he has used on the animals to this body I have for him. I KNOW my master can make life.
Alls well, master. Ygor is coming. Ygor will help you to make life, and it will be a great and wondrous thing. I know it will.
In the darkness, Frankenstein is now behind a screen ... so events unfold like a shadow play.
Dramatic music, thunder and lightning, blasts of electricity. There is a body on the operating table connected to wires. Frankenstein removes the top of the skull and attaches more wires.
With the blasts of electricity, the body jolts.
The sequence ends, and we see Ygor asleep in the cellar.
He wakes suddenly from a nightmare, screaming.
YGOR No! No! Keep away! Keep away from me! Master stop him!
He starts to calm down.
YGOR A... I dreamed. Just a dream. So real. So terrible. How can it be.
This night will haunt my mind always. Forever.
The lightning was crashing down. Such a storm I have never seen. The master was so excited. He had made all preparations with his own powers. This would give life. He had finished connecting the brain and sewing up the skull. All was ready. Then he turned on his power ... more and more, turning it higher and higher. But all the while, the creature he built lay still on the slab.
My master grew angry with impatience, cursing the lifeless form. Then, he thought to call on the sky. He used the power of the lightning. To think. My master knew how to capture the power of nature.
Then... what was dead, what lay still in the fitful light of those lightning bolts, began to stir. Just as my master had made the rabbits heart to beat, now he gave life to a mans body that he alone had built from the corpses I had brought.
The eyes opened. Staring out. The head turned. My master roared with delight. Slowly, slowly, the creature rose from the slab. Seeing the room with new life made by my master.
But then... seeing me. Looking cold at me. It KNEW. The creature KNEW.
Why does it have to be so hideous. Why is my masters work so crude in its construction. Scars all around the body from the work of assembling it and rebuilding veins. But what a body my master has made. Far more strength in it than in Ygor.
I fear. I do. How can my master control such a huge and powerful creature.
And the eyes. The way they stare at me. I think it remembers me.
Ygor is deeply troubled.
YGOR I cant sleep. Everytime I close my eyes I see Ivan Murzoskis face as he slipped from my grip.
I had to do it. For my master. So badly he wanted to complete his work.
Danielovich Grovaks brain was no good. His brain killed him ... it was rotted. The master needed a good brain. He had finished the body, made it perfect, prepared it for the final act.
The master said the brains of the other bodies could not be used. They were too long dead. Could have dug up another body for a brain, but that too would be rotted.
Above, Frankenstein speaks. Ygor goes to him.
FRANKENSTEIN The brain rots quickest of all parts of the body. No sooner does it cease receiving oxygen than it starts to become unusable.
YGOR What can we do, master.
FRANKENSTEIN I have failed. I must abandon my experiment. I must admit defeat.
YGOR Please. No.
FRANKENSTEIN I am so near yet so far, Ygor. I know I must wait for another death in the village. But I fear that by then the work I have done on his body will start to decay. The tissues will be damaged beyond repair if they remain lifeless much longer. I will have to construct another body ... but with the same hopeless conclusion to my efforts.
Frankenstein lowers his head, lost.
YGOR All is not lost, master. I will help you.
Ygor walks away from him.
YGOR I felt sad for my master. Could I let him down in his hour of greatest need when he had done so much for me?
Ygor comes down into dim light.
YGOR So I went out. I slipped quietly into the village at night and hid in the lightless corner of an alleyway across from the inn. I waited and watched, patiently, as the villagers began to leave after their nights drinking. Waited until finally I saw Ivan Murzoski. A big man. Strong. Not old. He would have a good brain, I thought. He would serve well for my masters needs.
What are the villagers anyway? They have never helped me or my master. And compared to my masters work, why, they are as worthless as the rabbits and rats I had caught for him. What matter is the life of Ivan Murzoski compared to what my master could do with his corpse.
And so ... as Ivan walked, I walked. In the dark. He headed out of the village, taking the lane to the farm where he worked. He was not so drunk. He almost walked steadily. But he was not on his guard. It was easy to move through the woods beside the lane until I was ahead of him.
I waited a moment. Then...
I am swift. He was dead when he slipped from my arms and fell to the ground.
Frankenstein, above, is overjoyed.
FRANKENSTEIN Ygor! You have answered my prayers! This is a perfect specimen! At last I can complete my work! I will fulfill my destiny and prove that the power of science has no limits! At last, man will create man!
YGOR My master went to work immediately, slicing open the forehead and removing the still warm brain. He worked for two days and two nights without stopping until his creature was ready. He was much too busy in his labours to ask me where the body came from. He did not need to know.
Tonight, he brought his work to life. And what a sight it is! How it moves ... so huge, yet so awkward. My master says the creature is a child in a giants body. All he has to do is teach it how to behave and it will be as other men: only stronger, bigger ... and immortal.
Ygor broods, afraid of his secret.
YGOR But the brain. What if it knows me and craves revenge? What if Ivan Murzoski is trapped inside that creature, swearing to avenge himself on Ygor who put him there. What if in a twilight between death and the end of seeing, his eyes died with the sight of me above him, looking down on my prey. What if the creature comes to me, stumbling closer and closer, reaching out...
Keep away! No! Keep away!
But he clutches me. And Ygor is snapped into pieces. My body broken ... no! It cant be!
Ygor sobs, but becomes calm. He settles down.
YGOR You will be safe. The aster will always save you. The master can control his creation and keep him away from Ygor. The master is a great man. Soon, the villagers will stand in awe of the master and they will respect Ygor for helping him.
The dream is a good one, Ygor. It is the masters dream, so it cannot be bad. Be at rest Ygor. Sleep now. All is well. You are safe. Sleep.
A major transition. A montage of sounds ... the screaming of a child, the roar of an angry crowd, flames and destruction.
Above, Frankenstein stands defiant through this torrent of sound and light and cries out.
FRANKENSTEIN I have the power! I am the way, the truth and the light! You hide in your ignorance when I offer you the path to godhood! What you fear is not this creation, but the truth that you can stand shoulder to shoulder with God! Science is humanitys way to immortality!
Darkness falls and silence. Then light comes up on the cellar and it is early dawn in what is now a ruined place. Ygor enters, bloody and disheveled.
YGOR What was that? Damn you! A rat! Youve moved back in already. Curse you. Because my masters home is now a shell, you make it your own.
He sits, weary.
YGOR Rest. Rest. So much pain.
Many years ago, before I came to Ingolstadt, I stopped near a small village to the West. I was not old then. It was not long after I had escaped from the orphanage. I had to escape. They were about to put me in the countys asylum
I knew I was not mad. And Ygor is no fool. But I was different. And the holy sisters made me wash and clean in the kitchens while the other children learned to read and write. And then one day I could bear the mocking no longer. A group of boys were mocking and jeering me and I reached and grabbed one. And I bit him.
"Ygor must be put away," the holy sisters said then. I knew what it would mean. Baths in boiling or ice water. Strapped up in the dark. Left to rot. I would not let them do that to Ygor.
So I ran away and lived off the fields, traveling as far as I could for fear they would capture me.
One day, as I journeyed, I stopped at a stream to quench my thirst. It was past noon on a July day. The day was so hot. The walking had made me weary and sweating. I used to rush then. I wanted to know what I would learn or see next. I cared for what life might have in store. So is it to be young.
As I lay drinking at the waters edge, I saw a girl come from bushes a distance downstream.
There, against the fierce greens and blues of that Summer day, this small pink creature ... perfectly formed. Long, golden hair that curled. A small twining growth met, hiding whatever it is that makes a woman not a man. Breasts small and firm ... not like those women in the orphanages who were fat and heaved their huge bosom from side to side as they scrubbed the floors.
This little girl was so small. So delicate.
She didnt see me, my angel. She just stopped for a moment to smile at the Sun, then sank into the water that embraced her and caressed her skin.
I crept along the bank, staying out of sight. I had never seen such beauty. Nor have I since. A force was driving my heart, spinning my head.
I found a spot behind a tree as close as possible to her, then watched. Her arms gently rolled up into the air, then back into the water. She lay almost still on her back, her tender face squinting at the skies. Crystal clear water fondling her as it carried her along.
Finally, after too brief a glimpse of Heaven, the girl came swimming towards the bank and rose up out of the stream.
Water trickled down from her hair, along her face, dripping down to her breasts.
She walked towards me. Towards me.
"No. No lady... sweet beauty... please dont fear me!" I cried out. "Forgive my appearance, but understand that beneath this unhappy shell beats a heart full of love for you."
I felt that the first shock of seeing me waned in her. She asked me to turn my head while she dressed, and this of course I did.
Then she said that indeed my love for her should be declared ... but properly. By addressing her father.
Wouldnt I walk with her to her fathers farm, she said, so that I could ask for her hand?
Yes. Yes. Together we walked. I spoke of my love for her, but she said nothing. Though in her eyes I saw a smile.
We came to the farm, and I was thinking of good words to say to her father. Then suddenly she called him. No. Shouted for him.
"Father! Father help me!" She cried out. "Save me!"
Ygor is silent. Then speaks matter-of-fact.
YGOR I have two fingers on this hand that still do nothing. My arms were broken. My kneecap on this leg knocked out of place, teeth broken, jaw also. I passed blood for a long time after because of the kicking.
Before that day, I was a hunchback ... deformed. But once my angel brought me to her fathers house and screamed and cried and said that I had spied on her and wanted to rape her and that she only saved herself by outwitting me... then the man and his workers beat me until I became what I am now ... hideous.
And that was the last heavy beating I got until two days ago at the hands of the villagers.
I think my body doesnt break so easily anymore. Maybe I cant feel pain. Or all the bones are already broken. Anyway, it wasnt so bad on me. I could expect no better at their hands.
He rests a while, trying to ease the pain.
YGOR I believe that men like to give beatings. Anyone who has ever beaten me has laughed and shouted and thrilled at the sight of my blood. And anyone I have ever trusted or loved has betrayed me. Except for my master. And now he is gone.
It all suddenly changed. Everything was well and the master was happy. Then madness descended.
The creature was evil. A devil in it made it turn against my master. Perhaps my masters work was too perfect, for his creature was stronger than anything the master had thought would control it. One night, it went into a frenzy and escaped from the castle.
Somehow, the creature killed a little girl. Her body was found, mangled, and the villagers were alerted.
The master and I had gone out and found he creature. But too late. The villagers were out into the night, with their torches, and they saw us bringing the creature back to the castle.
Damn them! I curse them all!
They followed us here, breaking down the doors and starting a fire. Making the creature wild with their shouting and the torches. It grabbed my master ... as he said, just like a baby in a giants body ... and it clung to him until they toppled together into a pool of flames.
I couldnt help. I couldnt help.
Ygor rummages through debris.
YGOR This pile of rubble was once my home.
Why didnt they kill me too? Why couldnt I die with my master ... letting his pain be mine.
But no. They caught me and they knew there was sport to be had with Ygor. They feared my master and his creation, but they could toy with me. Like a cornered rat. In a barn with the village men around, beating and taunting me.
"Where did the monster come from, Ygor!"
"How did Frankenstein do this!"
"What work did you do for Frankenstein!"
They know nothing. Villagers are fools.
But they beat me to make me answer. Two nights and a day in Kaloweiczs barn, beating me.
Im tired. Hungry. First time since those years ago. How many? No... only one. It seemed as if I had been with the master longer. My stomach is empty and I have no food to call my own.
Food in the fields, I suppose. If I wanted it. If I cared.
I did my work well. They had no idea I had dug up the graves. They were even stupid enough to think the creature had killed Ivan Murzoski ... and not I.
All they could say is that my master had sinned by making life. THEY accused my master of sinning! The villagers! I anted to tell them the truth of how my master had made his creature from the bodies of their worthless kinsmen. But they had destroyed everything. Why should they know the truth.
"Tell us how he did it, Ygor."
I just stared at them. The strongest men in the village, staggering over me as I lay crouched on the floor. All of them drinking bellyfuls of wine and beer. Hitting and kicking me. Laughing. How stupid their empty faces were when they laughed. It made me want to join in ... laughing at them.
So this was the life God had created. And me? Hadnt God created me? The crooked child of some man and woman who turned away from me when they saw the hideous produce of their union.
My masters creation was not perfect, but neither is Gods. The villagers said my master was mad. That no sane man would seek to make life when everyone knows that only God creates life.
God made me. Spat me out into the world in this form and cared nothing for me. My master cared for me and for what he created.
"Your Doctor Frankenstein made a monster that killed people ... even a child," they say.
As if I would believe them. Did they take me into their homes? Did they trust me? See a place for me in their village?
The villagers. I would be dead now at their hands if I had not escaped from the barn while the man they had left to guard me slept off his drunkenness.
Never, never would I let myself die at their hands. For their pleasure. Never. If I could not die for my masters honour, then I would not die for their amusement.
He sees something under rubble and frees it.
It is a length of rope.
YGOR Look what fate has saved for me.
He sits, working on the rope.
YGOR What do I do now. I could leave this land, I suppose. Go to another town. But then ... what? Become Ygor the idiot again there? Beg and crawl to men again?
What is this world ... its just a place of perfect people, right people ... like the villagers. All shouting, all hating. You can only do or be what they say.
Im not sorry. I was loyal to my master. I caught the animals and dug up the bodies and kept silent for him. He was a good man. Nothing that he did, or that I did for him, could be bad.
Im not sorry.
I wont betray him now because he is dead. I wont beg forgiveness from the villagers ... go back to what I was before.
A dream is a good thing to have, and my masters dream was all I had in my life.
I still believe in it.
Better to serve anothers dream than serve nothing but the weary toils of this life.
Ygor has made a hangmans knot in the rope.
YGOR I used this rope in my work for my master. Now I will use it to be reunited with him. Perhaps we can meet in another life and again he will take me to his side.
Let me be with you, master. Im so tired of this world. So very tired.
Ygor stands, ready to leave.
YGOR There is fine shade under the boughs of that oak tree out by the front of my masters home. I will go there and let it be my gateway to him. I must be with my master ... forever.
Ygor exits stage.
Martin Duffy. 1982/2005.