Cracknell was born in Carlisle and was raised in Oxford. She read history at the University of Nottingham where she was president of The Nottingham New Theatre. She later studied directing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
She is married and has three children. She lives in London.
Cracknell is currently an Associate Director of the Royal Court.
In 2007 Cracknell and Natalie Abrahami, then aged 26 and 27 respectively, became joint Artistic Directors of the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, London, UK. There Cracknell became known for her work blending contemporary dance with theatre and for reinterpretations of classic international plays. Cracknell's first dance/theatre show, I Am Falling, was nominated for a South Bank Show Award in the dance category in 2009.
- Medea - 14 July - 4 September 2014 (National Theatre)
- Birdland - 2014 (Royal Court)
- Blurred Lines - 2014 (National Theatre)
- Searched – 2013 (Royal Court Rough Cuts)
- A Doll's House by Ibsen – 2012 (Young Vic)
- Electra – 2011 (Gate Theatre/Young Vic)
- Elektra – 2010 (Gate Theatre/Headlong)
- Breathing Irregular – 2009/2010 (Gate Theatre)
- Dolls – 2009 (National Theatre of Scotland)
- Hedda by Ibsen, adapted by Lucy Kirkwood – 2008 (Gate Theatre)
- I Am Falling – 2008 (Gate Theatre and Sadler’s Wells) Nominated for Southbank Show Award
- Armageddon by Mark Ravenhill – 2008 (Gate Theatre)
- The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents – 2007 (Gate Theatre)
- Death and the City – 2005 (Tron Theatre)
- Stacy by Jack Thorne – 2005 (Tron Theatre)
- Broken Road by Ryan Craig – 2005 (British Council Showcase, BAC) Fringe First Award
- A Mobile Thriller – 2004 (Traverse, BAC, Harbourfront Toronto, Bristol Old Vic, National Tour)
- The Hush – 2002 ( BAC, Ohio Theatre New York)
- Macbeth – 2002 (Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham)