IF you are hiking on one of Scotland’s 282 munros this summer, it’s just possible that you will bump into young, French performance artist Ninon Noiret and her puppet companion Mini Me. Diagnosed with blood cancer in 2018 (now, thankfully, in remission), she responded to her illness with an innovative project walking the country’s highest mountains in order to raise both money and awareness.

Trekking above 3000 feet with Mini Me, Noiret – who is from the Celtic ­region of Brittany – is raising cash to fund her stage show The Raft Of The Crab (which is inspired by her experience of cancer) and to support lymphoma charity Blood Cancer UK.

The puppet – an enigmatic, largely bald-headed female figure created by the legendary Scottish puppet-maker and puppeteer Gavin Glover – represents the performer during her chemotherapy treatment.

Based in Scotland, Noiret is a ­dancer, actor, performance maker, acrobat and stunt woman. An instinctively ­collaborative artist – you might have seen her playing the role of Alonso in Andy Arnold’s recent, all-female production of The Tempest at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre – it is typical of her that munro-bagging (which is often a solitary pursuit) should turn out to be a joint effort, with Glover, his puppet creation and, often, Noiret’s friend the French-Icelandic actor Camille Marmié.

Initially, the plan was to climb nine munros (one for each month of her chemo) during the long period of ­Covid-enforced theatre closure. Now, however, she has discovered that she wants to continue climbing Scotland’s highest peaks with a somewhat “creepy” puppet strapped to her back.

When I meet Noiret in central ­Glasgow to talk about this most original of ­responses to a personal health crisis, the weather is (typically of Clydeside of late) reminiscent of the climate of the south of France. Unusually for such interviews, she is not alone.

There beside her, propped up on a chair, is Mini Me.

“I thought I’d bring her with me,” Noiret says. “It’s been a long time since I took her up a munro, so I thought I’d bring her for a coffee.”

The artist has written elsewhere about the puppet: “People usually find her quite creepy, but that’s because she ­represents what people are afraid of.”

She’s ­absolutely right. Mini Me is – as so often with Glover’s superb work – some distance away from a cutesy, only-for-children kind of puppet.

With jagged features, leathery grey-blue skin, staring eyes and a few ­remaining tufts of ragged hair on her bald head, the puppet is – as Glover intended – not a picture of rude health. What she is – as Noiret has discovered on the video-recorded hikes she has already done – is a source of interest for intrigued munro baggers.

The National: Dancer, actor, performance maker, acrobat and stunt woman, Ninon Noiret can now add munrobagging to her list of skillsDancer, actor, performance maker, acrobat and stunt woman, Ninon Noiret can now add munrobagging to her list of skills

Since she was diagnosed with cancer (on her birthday, of all days) back in 2018, the artist has been on a massive emotional and physical journey. Initially, she remembers, “I thought I was going to lose my leg, because the tumour was in my knee.”

Her theatrical project The Raft Of The Crab has evolved over time. Initially, a short film piece for the BBC (which has yet to be produced by the ­corporation), it went forward to become a short ­performance work for the Manipulate festival of puppetry, physical theatre and animation in Edinburgh.

However, that live rendering of the show was scuppered due the pandemic. Now, Noiret tells me, the production has grown into a work that features two ­puppets (Mini Me and her considerably larger sibling) and which will run to around 45 to 50 minutes.

In addition to that, Glover has created a mask for the performer which allows her to take on the facial characteristics of her puppet co-performers. For her part – as well as choreographing and performing all of the movement in the piece – Noiret has created a text built, in large part, around the Maritime Ode by the great Portuguese modernist poet ­Fernando Pessoa.

The sea monster in the epic poem was, she says, an “absolutely perfect” ­metaphor for her cancer. That aspect of Pessoa’s piece connected in Noiret’s mind with her compatriot Jean Racine’s Phèdre (a play, inspired by Ancient Greek drama and mythology, that also features a terrifying creature of the deep).

These inspirations and more are to be found in an original text by Noiret ­herself that will, alongside Glover’s ­puppet and mask-making, create the basis for the new, longer incarnation of The Raft Of The Crab. Needless to say, the piece – like raising awareness about, and charitable funds for, lymphoma – is a passion for the ­Breton artist.

Hence her plan to recommence ­climbing munros this summer. Her initial conquering of the first nine mountains – which was no mean feat, given that she was carrying the far-from-weightless Mini Me – gave her a taste for more.

“I don’t want to annoy people when I’m walking,” Noiret says, emphatically. “I know hiking is a challenge.”

FAR from interrupting hikers who are minding their own business, the artist’s method is to wait for fellow walkers to express an interest.

“If they ask, I start ­chatting. Sometimes we chat for a long time, which is really good.”

Waiting for others to initiate ­conversation – about the puppet and, subsequently, the artist’s fundraising ­exploits – is not the only challenge faced by Noiret and Mini Me. The weather tends to be “really disgusting”, the ­performer comments.

Mini Me’s less-than-reassuring ­appearance is not just down to the dark ­dimension to Glover’s ­imagination. ­Having been carried up a number of­munros in the driving wind and rain, Noiret’s companion must be one of the most weather-worn puppets on the ­planet.

For the artist, it is very appropriate that her fundraising is taking place on ­munros, which are so emblematic of Scotland. After all, she was living and working here when she got her diagnosis.

Her journey with cancer has, for the most part, taken place in Scotland, and she considers The Raft Of The Crab to be a Scottish project.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, I realised that all the people around me in Scotland had been really supportive. I just felt at home.”

For information about Ninon Noiret’s fundraising project search for @theraftofthecrab on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter